PC powerbrokers maintain fairly low profiles at Comdex

LAS VEGAS—Compaq Computer Corp., Dell Computer Corp. and IBM Corp. all stayed away
from last week’s Comdex, the capital of geekdom. But the most noticeable absentee was
Intel Corp. None had booths at the trade show.


The string-pulling chipmaker has PC makers at a standstill waiting for next year’s
introduction of a 500-MHz processor, which will have new instructions for floating-point
computations in multimedia and 3-D video.


Show visitors who did not bet on craps or blackjack could wager on what Intel will call
the chip, code-named Katmai. The top guess in an informal survey: Pentium III. Some
observers thought Intel might catch the date wave and name the processor Pentium 2000, or
perhaps the Pentium Millennium.


Intel chief executive officer Craig Barrett said in an irreverent keynote speech that
the government ought to abolish the Postal Service and turn all post offices into kiosk
locations for e-mail instead of continuing to handle paper mail.


I had one question for Mr. Barrett: How can my mom attach cookies to an e-mail?


Boothless like Barrett, Dell chairman and founder Michael Dell backed out of giving a
keynote speech. But I bumped into the billionaire in his company’s well-concealed
meeting room.


As some of the Dell folks said later, “Michael and Michael had lunch.” While
we grazed the Comdex fare, Dell told me, “We have a lot of products coming along in
1999 with Katmai and Windows 2000.”


Dell’s portable team showed off a 3-pound, Pentium-class subnotebook that the
company plans to release early next year. Dell officials said it will have the largest,
brightest display in that weight class.


“When we launched the portable line, we went right to the center of the
market,” Dell said. “Now you’re going to see us branch out.”


Microsoft Corp. came a step closer to release of its newest software suite, Office
2000, when chairman Bill Gates rolled out the second beta version at Comdex.


Office 2000 Premium will include not only the standard Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint
and Outlook applications, but also FrontPage, Publisher and the new PhotoDraw for Web and
document graphics. Expect the new Office early next year.


As for Windows NT 5.0, now being developed in various flavors under the name Windows
2000, it’s still anyone’s guess when that will be ready.    

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