Some familiar business-style products will part a sea of gadgets and doodads at the International Consumer Electronics Show in early January.
The annual convention, which is known for displaying everything from enormous flat-screen televisions to tasers and robotic dogs under the bright lights of Las Vegas, will also play host to a number of more buttoned-down products in 2006, including a new crop of notebook PC products.
Businesses might normally ignore big-screen TVs, tiny cellular phones, DVD players and other consumer gear being displayed at the show. However, much of the technology built into those devices finds its way into corporate gear.
"Treos and BlackBerries and a lot of handheld devices are certainly appropriate in the business environment — sometimes even more so than consumer," said Steve Baker, an analyst at The NPD Group Inc.
"Flat-panel televisions aren't just a consumer technology either. You'll see lots of talk about how a lot of the big, flat-screen TVs can work for public displays," such as advertising, he said.
In addition to launching a new branding strategy that largely shelves its traditional "Intel Inside" tag line, and introducing a new nomenclature for its mobile chips, the chip maker will launch Napa, its newest notebook PC platform.
Napa, an important platform for businesses in that it claims both double-digit performance gains and longer battery life for notebooks, includes Intel's dual-core Yonah processor, a successor to its Pentium M, as well as a new enabling chip set with higher performance graphics built in and a new wireless module.
The company is also expected to unveil a new name for its mobile Pentiums along with Yonah and Napa. The company is expected to call them Intel Core processors, with dual-core versions being marketed as "Duo" chips and single-core versions dubbed "Solo."
Intel has said its Napa platform will result in more than 220 notebook designs, about half of which will come out within a month of Napa's introduction. Among them are expected to be Lenovo Group LTD., whose ThinkPad line will incorporate Napa, according to outgoing CEO Steve Ward.
"You're going to see our product line expand" with Napa notebooks, Ward said in a recent interview with eWEEK. "At CES in January, my expectation is that Lenovo will have more of the latest Intel technology in our PCs than anyone else."
Brand-name vendors, including Dell Inc., Gateway Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and possibly even Apple Computer Inc., which could well use the platform or parts of it to design new portables, are all expected to offer Napa machines for businesses and consumers.
"From the PC side this year, we'll see a lot of commercial notebooks with the Napa launch," Baker said. But, he added, "We'll hear a lot more about notebooks with wireless WAN built into them. That's most certainly a crossover technology."
Several PC makers, including Lenovo, Dell and HP, have already announced plans to offer Verizon Communications Inc.'s EV-DO wide-area wireless network service with their machines. Dell and HP said they would not begin until 2006.
Intel will also discuss its Viiv brand consumer electronics gear. Although Viiv platforms will be aimed at consumers, some of the same hardware will also show up in corporate desktops in 2006 and as part of a business desktop platform dubbed Averill.
Bill Gates, Microsoft Corp.'s chairman and chief software architect, will also take the stage for a CES keynote address. During his talk, Gates is likely to extol the virtues of Vista, Microsoft's next Windows operating system, due in late 2006.
Given that many of the business-oriented details of the new operating system — such as its Restart Manager — have already been discussed by Microsoft, Gates may instead focus on Vista's Media Center capabilities, or outline its Tablet PC functionality.
Businesses might find tablet PC talk of interest. Tablet PCs, which use pen input and a special Windows XP Tablet Edition operating system, have generally been slow sellers compared to standard notebooks. However, tablets have found homes in areas such as health care and education.
Meanwhile, some firms have also begun to show interest in Media Center PCs for audiovisual duties in showing presentations in boardrooms or sales meetings, some PC makers say.
New cellular phones, televisions and other devices are also expected to turn up at the show.
Palm Inc. is likely to highlight its forthcoming Treo 700w, the company's first Windows Mobile software-based phone. Motorola Inc. may also show off its Q, a phone that looks like a cross between one of the company's RAZR phones and a Research In Motion Ltd. BlackBerry.
LG.Philips LCD Co. Ltd. will show off LCD-based television and computer displays in sizes up to 55 inches, the company said in a pre-show invitation. Samsung Electronics Co., BenQ Corp. and others are expected to show similarly large LCD displays, plasma TVs and other gadgets. LG.Philips LCD will also show a 10.1-inch flexible e-book display, the company said.
Some new technologies will crop up as well. At least one company, Jadoo Power Systems Inc. of Folsom, Calif., will display fuel cells to power notebooks, radios and other equipment.
Tracking calls while away from one's desk may also become easier thanks to new phones that will also be on display at the show. At least one company will exhibit a phone system that is based on Europe's DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) standard.
The technology, which behaves like a cross between cordless and cellular phones, will allow a user to roam throughout an office building or an office park and still receive calls, representatives said.
Check out eWEEK.com's Desktops & Notebooks Center for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.
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