Laptops and gadgets to pull crowds at Computex

Asia's largest IT show, Computex, opens in Taipei next week, giving users a glimpse of products they can look forward to having by the end of this year.

One of the world's biggest IT trade shows will throw open its doors in Taiwan next week, showcasing new laptop processors from the world's two biggest chip makers, as well as a raft of new devices for the digital home.

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is expected to polish up its Formula 1 racing car again to showcase the latest Scuderia Ferrari notebook from Acer. Powered by an AMD Turion 64-bit processor, the notebook answers a challenge by Taiwanese rival Asustek Computer, which released a Lamborghini notebook earlier this year running on a dual-core Pentium M chip from Intel.

The two chip makers will also square off in the digital home. Entertainment PCs based on AMD's Live platform, for sharing video and music throughout the home, will be out on Thursday, AMD said. Taiwanese firms will be showing Live systems at Computex, as well as products like digital set-top boxes and LCD TVs based on Intel's Viiv platform.

There should also be motherboards and other hardware from Taiwan's huge component industry that support new AMD processors that work with DDR2 (double data rate, second generation) memory chips. And Intel may choose Computex to launch a dual-core version of its Itanium 2 server processor, dubbed Montecino, which it has said would be available the middle of this year.

The two chip makers won't steal all of the limelight. New ultraportable PCs based on Microsoft's Origami platform are expected to be shown, as well as high definition TVs and gadgets for watching TV on the go. There will also be new product announcements from Via Technologies Inc. and other companies.

Computex runs from June 6 to June 10. Now in its 26th year, it will be hoping to break its attendance record of nearly 130,000 visitors. That figure puts Computex behind some other major shows, including Germany's Cebit, which drew around 450,000 in March, Japan's Ceatec, which drew just shy of 200,000 last October, and the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which hosted 152,000 visitors in January.

But Computex visitors can see products at the show that they can own by the end of the year. That's one of the things that makes Computex different from Cebit or CES -- it doesn't try to look too far into the future. Most of what's on show is ready to manufacture or will be in stores soon, making it a computer enthusiast's paradise.

The show will probably also stir the usual controversy from the guerilla marketing tactics companies use, like the incident a few years ago in which some Intel representatives were accused of popping Via's marketing balloons. Last year, graphics chip makers Nvidia and ATi Technologies went head to head by dressing an army of college students in their company colors. From beautiful booth attendants to glitzy stage shows, vendors go all out to spread their message at Computex.

Around 1,312 exhibitors will be on tap, including Hon Hai Precision Industry, the world's largest electronics contract manufacturer. They'll pedal their wares at 2,907 booths in four huge exhibition halls in the island's capital of Taipei. Other highlights include pavilions exclusively for WiMax, Internet telephony, automobile electronics and security.

Computex will also host several side shows vying to attract its visitors. They include the Via Technology Forum, where the chip maker will lay out its latest roadmap; Information Appliances Forum Asia, which focusses on mobile TV, HDTV, and in-car entertainment; the e21 Forum, aimed at digital home entertainment; and industry conferences on DRAM (dynamic RAM) and LCDs (liquid crystal displays).

Although relatively small, Taiwan can attract so many people for Computex because of its standing in the global IT industry. It enjoys the top market share in several product categories, including notebooks, PDAs (personal digital assistants), routers, switches, wireless-LAN products and LCDs, according to Taiwan's Institute for Information Industry.

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Dan Nystedt

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