Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Tech: Seeking the future at CeBIT Australia (Part 1 of 3)

Part two of my posts on CeBIT discusses business intelligence misconceptions; part three discusses the future of broadband.

Today I tried to glean the IT future by forging my way through CeBIT Australia 2006. Only somewhat more reliable than reading tea leaves. Still, some useful insights emerged.

Top Tier IT companies had no presence, apart from Telstra. They had a stand as well as a keynote from Randy Lynch, new COO, Telstra Business and Government (to paraphrase: “don’t call them small business, they hate that. Just call them business, and large business, enterprise”). No stands for Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, etc etc. The ones that were left were hungry enough, but it’s hard to tell whether they’re the future, or whether stands were marketed hard and successfully to particular technologies. If it’s not the latter, the future’s in VOIP, broadband, mobile workforces, and USB-enabled everything. Oh, and Blackberry, for some reason.

Noteworthy was a series of presentations on broadband by Paul Budde, a telecomms industry analyst. He was the highlight for me; I’ll devote an entry to him soon.

Of less interest were a bunch of people forcing on me blurbs that I won’t read, more magazines than I have time for, more CDs than I will ever plug in, and more second-string CRM and ERP vendors than I can absorb. Business Intelligence was mostly represented by those last - not too ably, either.

There were really far too many stands and talks to assess them all in one day. Blackberries and iPods were frequent sweeteners (in prize draws), but cheap lollies were absolutely ubiquitous. Some companies were particularly poor at engaging the punter; I could then choose whether or not to engage. If that’s not desired, I suggest they pay more attention to gimmicks - I saw mini-golf, virtual air hockey, build-a-tower, and wheel spins - or something to make the passer-by's experience more sticky. Points given to the stands offering coffee.

The organisers missed a few marks. The guidebook was quite awkward to navigate, and had omissions and spelling mistales. There could have been more rest points, too, perhaps littered with promos to pay the way. As it was, most of the available seating was in overpriced, low ambience cafeterias.


Blackberries: For all the talk of, I’m still not sold. Although they represent a convergent PDA device that does phone and email, one of the articles I did read was scathing about the crippling price plans available through service providers, particularly Telstra. In Australia, push email is not a standard service, and Blackberries get ahead simply because Blackberry (ie Reseach In Motion) provides its own push service, and the main telcos (Telstra, Optus, Vodafone) use Blackberry. I can see nothing else that couldn’t be done just as well, or better, with normal PDAs. And the screen size of the latest models is still woeful.

Voice Over IP (VOIP): A lot of exhibitors were plugging this, as a service (to business) or a product (eg VOIP handsets). Used to be, the advantage in VOIP was cheap calls via the internet (to other VOIP-enabled parties); the call quality suffered correspondingly. Now, businesses are flocking to it for other reasons such as infrastructure integration. And they're getting better quality out of it.

Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC): Simply put, a new computer format somewhere between PDA and tablet size, with the touch screen of both. Hard to know whether it's just a big hype, or a format that will stay the distance. I stick my neck out and plum for the former. A computer in a pocket is a powerful concept, but if you're going too big, might as well be carting around a cutdown laptop. Or a tablet. Why reduce functionality by making it even smaller?

Credit Card memory: Wallet Flash is USB memory in a credit card size. It's somewhat thicker than a credit card, and a little USB interface pokes out the side. The exhibitor (from Walletex) swore blind it had well proven itself sufficiently robust for the wallet. Prices she quoted me were somewhat comparable to other memory formats, but they were still looking for a distributor, and import costs may be added. I'm happy enough to see yet another format for carrying memory around - with a standard interface.

No comments: