Enterprise offerings at Consumer Electronics Show

While Bill Gates's keynote crash at last week's International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas grabbed headlines, a number of more useful (if less entertaining) enterprise-oriented announcements came out of that traditionally consumer-oriented trade show.

Mobility and wireless technologies blurred the lines between "consumer" and "enterprise" at this year's show. The new Action Engine Mobile Application Platform, for example, offers an innovative browserless, client/server approach to accessing transaction-oriented online services.

"People are failing to utilize the valuable information, location, and entertainment services that reside on their wireless devices, because the experience is simply too complex and cumbersome," said Scott G. Silk, president and CEO of Action Engine. "Action Engine's technology removes that usability barrier by creating a new category of interconnected applications that work together to provide an intuitive, responsive, and personalized data services experience that gets better with each use."

Chicago-based U.S. Robotics' new Power over Ethernet (PoE) Kit, also announced at the show, promises to eliminate the need to place wireless access points near a power outlet. The kit uses a Cat 5 Ethernet cable to carry both the data signals and electrical power, which allows access points to be placed up to 300 feet away from an electrical outlet. The kit's PoE Injector delivers power to the Ethernet cable, and its PoE Splitter delivers power to the access point. No software, special cabling, or installation of additional electrical sockets is required. And it's compatible with all wireless speeds supported by the associated access point.

A number of storage vendors unveiled new products at this year's CES. A standout here was Austin, Texas-based Buffalo Technology, launched its new TeraStation, a 1 terabyte Network Attached Storage (NAS) solution. Billed as the first user-friendly, high capacity network storage device designed and priced for the consumer, SOHO, and SMB markets, the TeraStation is a Windows and Macintosh compatible NAS device with four 250 GB hard drives, and four operational modes: Standard Mode, which allows each drive to be shared as an individual network volume; Spanning Mode, which merges all four drives as a single volume to create a one TeraByte share; Mirroring Mode, which creates two separate pairs of mirrored drives to prevent data loss in the event of drive failure; and Raid 5 Mode, which takes advantage of the popular disk arraying technology.

New security products with the potential for enterprise and consumer application surfaced at this year's show. Biometrics products in particular were hot. Fingerex-SD, a new email security solution for South Korea-based Digent, registers users' fingerprints in the SD server and integrates with MS Outlook.

San Jose, Calif.-based Alestron demoed Face Metrix, which captures faces with generic video devices, stores the "facial elements" in a database, and then uses visage-matching software to verify IDs.

Fingerprint technology vendor Bionopoly joined with Aeros Aviation to unveil a new biometric access control device. Billed as the first standalone "Fingerprint Passcode Generator," the device is designed to dynamically generate alphanumeric passcodes based on an authorized user's unique fingerprint.

Even the gizmo vendors had something for the company. GN Netcom, for example, promised to "redifine headset use in the corporate enterprise" with its new Concept 9X3 wireless headset. It has a 300-plus-foot range, conferencing capabilities, and an included USB connection to VoIP softphones.

Event organizers expected 140,000 attendees at this years CES. This year's keynote roster reflects the keen interest among a range of companies in new consumer markets. Along with Gates, Intel CEO Craig Barrett and HP chief Cary Fiorina took the stage in Las Vegas to tout new consumer-oriented offerings.

Microsoft's chairman and chief software architect opened the show on Wednesday evening. He was demoing a new Nikon camera with a WinXP Media Center Edition PC when the computer stopped responding. The much feared "Blue Screen of Death" appeared later in the presentation when a product manager was demonstrating the video game.

Gates's presentation took the form of a mock episode of Conan O'Brien's Late Night talk show. O'Brien did a stand-up routine, and then Gates joined him onstage as a "guest." When Gates's machine crashed, O'Brien cracked, "Who's in charge of Microsoft, anyway?"

The last Gates suffered through an on-stage demo crash was while he was introducing a new plug-and-play feature of Windows 98.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].

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