My wrap-up report will cover mostly non-networking related products that caught my eye as I made my way through the small, but surprisingly busy show floor. But first, I wanted to talk about two more WLAN products…
A really teeny AP…
Taiwan-based ASUS is known primarily for its motherboards, but also wants to be recognized for its networking product capabilities. During my tour of their off-floor meeting room, I came upon the smallest 11b Access Point that I’ve seen yet! The WL-330 Pocket Wireless Access Point was actually introduced at September’s Computex show. It’s about the size of a pack of Camels (the cigarettes, not the animal), uses a Marvell 11b chipset and is a fully featured access point that includes WDS-based bridging and repeating , as well as an AP Client mode. Street price should be $50 – $60 when it becomes available next month. ASUS said they’ve even found a really small power adapter that’s about the size of a matchbox and only takes up one outlet space on a power strip. The AP is even smaller than BuffaloTech’s WLA2-G54.
I also saw ASUS’ WL-160 USB2.0 / 11g adapter , which uses essentially the same-sized package as the WL-330. It’s based on a chipset from Envara , has built-in diversity antennas and comes available in late December, early January for between $60 – $75 .
Turning now to the fun stuff, I’ll start with Macsense’s HomePod MP-100 Wireless Network Music Player . Styled to imitate a product with a similar name (but about three times that product’s size), the HomePod can stream MP3 files over Ethernet and 802.11b network connections. A Java-based applet runs on Windows, MacOS and even Linux machines and works with the HomePod to make files stored there available for browsing on its multi-line LCD display. You can use either its built-in speakers or stereo outputs, and it also has a built-in FM tuner.
Although introduced all the way back at this past January’s San Francisco MacWorld Expo, I was told that it will finally be ready for its close-up in mid-December and list for $249 . By the way, I also saw networked music players from NETGEAR and a Agere-based reference design. NETGEAR’s MP101 ($179 suggested list) should hit stores after Christmas.
I like poking around in the Taiwan / China / Korea / Hong Kong vendor booths, because there’s always something interesting to see and this time was no exception. Most of the vendors here are looking to sell to “name brand” consumer electronics companies who will brand the product and get it into retail distribution. Some though, also sell products directly under their own names, usually via “Mom and Pop” computer stores, or the folks who sell at computer flea-market shows.
I found a few companies showing USB-based memory card readers with built-in JPEG decoders . Wing-Span ‘s MU-601, Glory Mark ‘s GMP-810, and Action Star ‘s CR-216-C all handle Compact Flash, Smart Media, SD, MMC and Memory stick modules, have NTSC / PAL composite video outputs and play JPEG and AVI formats. Some even come with miniature remotes, but none handle MP3 files. Retail pricing should be somewhere around $100 if and when they manage to get picked up by name-brand comsumer electronics companies.
Hong Kong-based Protectserve Pacific was showing its RFLoc security device and looking for OEM / ODM partners. The RFLoc uses a small “key” module worn by a computer user and “Lock” plugged into a USB port. When a user gets within about 6 feet / 2 meters of a protected computer, the two modules communicate and automatically enter a username / password combination to unlock the machine. Moving beyond the 6 foot zone automatically locks the machine again. Signaling is done in the 315 / 433 MHz bands, so the system doesn’t collide with cordless phones and wireless LANS.
Hardcore Business IT Products?
I found plenty of exceptions to Comdex’ alleged “Business-only” focus, but I’ll just single out three for special mention. All of these products had been introduced before Comdex, but they were new to me!
BestSoft’s Action Stick looks like a microphone stand but is actually a game controller. It can control eight actions by following various body movements. I watched it demoed with a fighting game and you can get quite a workout using it. Maim your opponent and lose weight,too!
TERK’s VR-1 TV Volume regulator does what it says, keeping volume steady when you change channels or commercials come on. It uses “Volume Logic technology” from Octiv – whose founders come from the pro audio industry. MSRP is around 50 bucks and should be available at your favorite consumer electronics retailer. Don’t ask me what this has to do business-to-business IT, but if it works as advertised, I may be giving my wife one for Christmas!
The last product in the why-is-this-at-Comdex categroy is the DreamFree EEGfree Digital Brain-charging Instrument . The EEGfree looks like a set of slimmed down Virtual Reality goggles and uses a combination of blinking LEDs and audio that DreamFree says can temporarily alter your brainwaves. It has seven basic modes including Concentration, Sleep and Relaxation (sorry, nothing that will make your, um, member grow… at least I don’t think so). And if that’s not enough it has a serial port that allows you to download more customized programs from a supplied CD or website.
The reason this product caught my eye was that the booth was constantly swamped with a feeding-frenzy of people, many of whom wanted to buy the samples being demoed! They’ll have to wait to part with the $300 or so that is the expected price, since DreamFree’s main mission at the show was to sign up distributors for the product.
And that, folks, about wraps it up for me from Las Vegas. Maybe this all won’t be here next year, but all my crystal ball will say is “Ask Again Later”.