Editorial: Evolution follows revolution

While it goes without saying that the world's second largest IT show had something for everybody, it was the arena of convergence that once again held most of the aces in Taiwan this year. Although failing to match the weird and wonderful wow factor of Computex 2004, there were still plenty of head-turning exhibits to fire the imagination.

Not surprisingly, portable music gadgets of all colours, shapes and sizes were everywhere - one example from Bright Headphone Electronics saw a 256MB MP3 player and FM tuner built into a set of Bluetooth headphones, while another took the form of a wristwatch.

Top Light International was demonstrating pairs of 5W speakers designed for the iPod mini that were small enough to lie next to each other on the open palm of one hand. Puro stood out at the other end of the speaker spectrum with some very cool lounge room designs shaped in a figure eight and manufactured from ceramic.

Digital video recorders, media adapters and TV tuners were in abundance. LCD screens keep getting bigger, and smaller, as do computer cases - the huge gaming chassis were all flashing lights and harsh angles while the mini PCs sported minimalist design elements. This year's show also had a large stand demonstrating wares designed for the car, which was largely dominated by GPS navigation devices and LCD screens. The latter are meant to keep the kids amused in the back but older models of these screens were hitching a ride in the front of some cabs I travelled in.

Hawyang Semiconductor was demonstrating a cool film-like material for use in conjunction with a digital projector. They had a 12-inch piece of this material stuck to a sheet of glass and were projecting a Kylie concert through it. They were obviously big fans of Ms Minogue because she seemed to be on loop for the entire show. Hawyang director, Vincent Lee, said the material was washable, would be just as effective if stuck to a wall at home and could be bought in sheets up to 80 inches in diameter.

CyberLink was showing an impressive suite of multimedia software capable of everything from red-eye reduction and one-click colour optimisation for digital photos to background noise reduction and image editing tools for home videos. While 12 months is a long time in product development cycles, some things at Computex never change. The battle to attract attention in the components hall was once again fought more fiercely than elsewhere, with all the major players employing legions of beautiful young girls to bring the crowds flocking to their displays. It isn't a sophisticated ploy but it works a treat - you could always tell where the latest vendor-promoting karaoke performance was underway because each seemed to generate more camera flashes than an Olympic track final.

If last year's event was one of revolution, Computex 2005 suggested evolution as the industry becomes more comfortable with developing and promoting the digital lifestyle. Imagination is the only real barrier to what can be achieved and few nations are driving the concept as enthusiastically or effectively as the Taiwanese.

There are obviously still plenty of standardisation issues to be addressed, especially on the hardware side, but that process is well underway. If the digital lifestyle is to become more widely accepted, more quality content that is easily accessible will be the key.