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Computing At Chaos Manor:
January 16, 2007

The User's Column, January, 2007
Column 318, part 3
Jerry Pournelle jerryp@jerrypournelle.com
Copyright 2007 Jerry E. Pournelle, Ph.D.

Continued from last week

This is the first year in many that I have not been to either MacWorld Expo or the Consumer Electronics Show. Like an old war horse hearing distant trumpets I have been vaguely uneasy, but everyone assures me I haven't missed a lot. There were a number of new developments, but most aren't new in the sense that we haven't heard about them. After all, I am already using Vista and Office 2007 to write this column, and while I don't yet have an Intel Mac, that's only because I haven't ordered it yet.

This year, Chaos Manor Reviews has first hand CES reports by Alex Pournelle, and Eric Pobirs. They make me wish I'd gone.

The Apple Scene

I confess that I waited until MacWorld Expo before ordering a new Intelbased Mac, mainly because I am still torn between the MacBook Pro and the 22" iMac, but also because there was a bare chance that they'd bring out something even better; but the big announcement there was a telephone whose name isn't certain, and which won't be out under any name until June. Chaos Manor Associate Dan Spisak has some observations on the future of the "iPhone" in a special report.

Regarding that trademark: there's no question that Cisco owns the registered trademark "iPhone", having acquired it through purchase of an Internet telephone company; and they are certainly bringing suit. (see this link) On the other hand, Apple has made the "i" prefix pretty well its own. On the gripping hand, Cisco may have lost the trademark due to lack of enforcement (at this link). And so forth. The only certain thing here is that some lawyers will make a lot of money. Jobs has renamed Apple Computer Inc. to Apple Inc. (reported here and other places) and certainly had "The Apple Phone" as a fallback name.

The odd part of the story may be the most important part. Apparently Apple and Cisco were in negotiations which would allow Apple to use the "iPhone" name without cost or royalties; all Cisco wanted was assurance that the new Apple phone system would work with Cisco equipment. That, apparently, was the sticking point: Steve Jobs is said to have become adamant and left the negotiations rather than concede this point. Whether this was pique, boredom, or a clue about Apple's technical strategy with the iPhone or Apple Phone we leave as an exercise for the reader.

Cherry Picking at CES

CES has become so enormous that no one can cover the whole show floor. When I go there, I do try to get out on the floor - I got my Kodak Dual Lens V570 pocket camera that I carry everywhere by being at the right place at the right time - but for the most part I have to rely on peep shows.

I may be the only one who calls them that. These are special small shows demonstrating sponsored products. Only the working press is invited to these. The best known are Pepcom Digital Experience (link) and ShowStoppers (link) . These shows began in the days when COMDEX was the big event of the computer year. COMDEX Founder Sheldon Adelson tried to prevent them by sopping up all the major exhibit space in Las Vegas during COMDEX. There might not be anything for him to show in the major hotel ballrooms, but he rented them anyway: he could always offer potential exhibitors cut rates and last minute space, and meanwhile there wasn't any way for others to exploit the big crowds COMDEX drew. Ginger Brewer thought of a way: she rented the dance floor of a bar to hold the first Silicon Northwest. Then she brought in clams, oysters, and other Northwest foodstuffs including wines (getting much of that donated for the publicity) and invited the press corps to a free feed with exhibits.

That broke the ice, and soon there were other limited invitation events. COMDEX didn't like the idea much, and no item shown only at those and not at COMDEX itself could win any COMDEX award or would ever be mentioned in COMDEX press including the Show Daily, but the events kept growing until they became more important to the press than the show floor itself. When COMDEX dwindled and died, the press shows migrated to CES and now they're a feature of many major trade shows.

Marty Winston of Newstips invented Cherry Picks, a preshow event that shows off new products at CES. (link). It has also become an important show event, nearly essential for anyone trying to cover the show itself.

All these events have a web presence. It's not like being there - one of the things I always like about these it that they often bring in tech people as well as marketing - but they're worth looking over.

This year Winston got over a thousand applicants for Cherry Picks. He was willing to show 100, but ended up choosing only 62. That says a lot about CES with its many thousands of items. (Some of the biggest exhibitors didn't ask to be part of the Cherry Picks; but some did. Lenovo isn't small potatoes.) It's worth a visit to his site.

As I said, I have all the stirrings of an old war horse who has heard the trumpets. I think next year I'll have to go.

Orchids for Otter Box

Last year one of my Chaos Manor Orchids went to the Otterbox (link). Otterbox makes nearly indestructible computer cases. They're not light weight, but if you have to send your computer through checked luggage, or carry it in a four wheel drive through the desert, this is the box you need.

They now make boxes for cell phones and PDA's. I haven't seen one yet, but my experience with their computer cases makes me certain these will be better than advertised. Have a look.

Next week, the promised Onions, some more Orchids, how to add memory to your ThinkPad, and a good bit more. Be sure to see this week's special reports by Eric Pobirs, Alex Pournelle, and Dan Spisak.