Wireless Handhelds Grip Computex

2019 note: this is a Computex show floor report written by me for eWEEK.com in 2002. Computex was one of the largest computer trade shows in the world but losing its glory in the past decade. The next wave of mobile devices and new derivatives such as IoT could bring it back to the centerstage. Can they?

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Computex Taipei 2002, one of the world’s three largest computer shows in parallel with Hannover CeBIT and Comdex Fall, is open to the slowly recovering world economy this week at the Taipei World Trade Center here.

In 2,306 booths, more than 1,108 exhibitors are showcasing their best efforts after the tumultuous 2001. More than 23,000 attendees are expected to attend and to gawk at what vendors from Taiwan and 17 other countries have to offer.

Though typically known as a hardware and gadget show, this year’s Computex has gone wireless. Wireless solutions and products for new mobile phones, PDAs, notebooks, tablet PCs, and input devices are everywhere, with wireless technologies being cleverly mixed and implemented.

Thanks to Microsoft Corp.’s dominant marketing position and developer support over Palm in Taiwan, most of the PDA-related announcements here are based on Windows CE. Another reason for limited Palm activity at the show, is that only one Taiwan company, Acer, is licensed to build Palm-based handhelds. To that end, Acer this week is unveiling its new n20w, the new handheld with IEEE 802.11b wireless network capability built in.

“Palm OS just lacks the flexibility Taiwanese manufacturers need,” said an official at First International Computer Inc., a Windows CE handheld maker based here. “For example, CPU compatibility, screen size, scalability, etc. Palm may be good for individual users’ needs, but those characteristics and the OS vendor support are what OEM makers really need.”

Wireless access point (AP) routers are quite prevalent here, as well as other devices such as wireless PC cards, and USB Bluetooth adapters.

Senao International unveiled a full series of long-range IEEE 802.11b (also known as “WiFi”) AP routers and bridges. When combined with the company’s proprietary stick- or dish-shaped Yagi antenna, the range of WiFi wireless network can be boosted to as far as 16 miles in the certain direction, according to Senao.

“We have motels that have a few buildings scattered in a wide area,” said one attendee from the U.S. “To provide our customers with wireless Internet connection service, a long-range solution may be more practical than deploying regular APs in each house.”

Keeping Cool in Taiwan

Despite the buzz in the air about wireless, a handful of manufacturers offered new PC designs that featured liquid-cooled mechanisms for the CPU, all of which claimed better speed and stability of overclocked PCs.

The development and manufacturing of cooling components is indeed an industry itself in Asia, partly because the “over clocking” habit of individual users who want to squeeze the last speed drop out of the already-hot gigahertz CPUs.

All kinds of ingenious heat sinks, air-cooler, liquid-cooler, even very sophisticated heat-exchange systems resembling alcohol stills have been introduced in Asia since the 80386 era, and this show is no exception. In fact, many showgoers are quite amazed by the design and creativity demonstrated in the small piece of “minor” component.

Of Mice and LCDs

Equally humble yet indispensable, mice is another area for innovative Taiwanese to show their wits. Along with the trend to replace traditional roller mice with more precise optical ones, Taiwanese developers have added fantastic features to the original pointing device.

For example, new mice that can read 7 types of memory cards, along with models that sport double LED sensors, wireless control, fingerprint identification, were being unveiled this week. Even one with a self-powering capability via a solar panel on the top, was on display. This unit recharges the wireless mouse when not in use.

During the transition from CRT monitors to LCD design, major players in this arena took the opportunity to debut new models of LCD monitors.

However, since some key LCD components have to be purchased from Japanese or Korean vendors, and the size of mass market models are temporarily stuck at 17-inches, many Taiwanese brand names such as BenQ Corp., ViewSonic Corp., and AG Neovo, are focusing on stylish designs, functionality (CRT’s that double as TV, for example), and other features that would add more value to the products.