The Almanac

Keep an Eye on Key-Chain Fobs

In a few years, it's likely that a traveling executive will be able to show up at a conference, take a tiny memory device from his key chain, plug it into a waiting computer and have his entire presentation and desktop environment be instantly available.

Jack Gold, an analyst at Meta Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn., says the concept isn't as far-fetched as it may seem. Some road warriors already carry 2GB flash memory devices on key chains—the products are so cheap that they're even given away by vendors at trade shows. And in a few years, those devices will grow to 10GB or larger. All that's needed are software standards to ensure that traveling executives can read their data on any remote computer.

Here's the rub, however: Carrying the contents of your hard drive in your pocket has some obvious risks, including vulnerability to theft, loss, breakage and espionage. There's no way to ban the tiny gadgets, so Gold recommends that IT shops warn users not to carry ultrasensitive data on the devices—and to establish backup procedures to prevent data loss.

Patent Watch

A flat-panel display for laptop computers that can be used in extremely cold locations. Current displays won't work below 0 degrees Celsius, yet adding a heater adds weight and uses up battery power. This invention calls for a proton exchange membrane fuel cell that can generate 30 watts of power and up to 17 watts of heat to warm the flat-panel display.

NEC's OLED display is ready for cell phones.
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NEC's OLED display is ready for cell phones.
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- U.S. Patent No. 6,469,449, issued Oct. 22

Inventors: Fee Chan Leung and Louis P. Jarvis, for the U.S. Army

Solar cells for supplementing battery power in a notebook computer. The solar cells are "incorporated into the display screen assembly of a notebook computer in an unobtrusive and efficient manner" and lengthen the amount of time the computer can be used before being recharged.

- U.S. Patent No. 6,445,376, issued Sept. 3

Inventor: Sean T. Parrish, Boise, Idaho

Around the World In 60 Seconds

• Philips Electronics NV recently showed off a miniature, blue-laser optical disk drive—with disks that are just 30mm in diameter—at the Ceatec 2002 show in Japan. The disks hold 1GB of data. — IDG News Service

• Lilliputian Systems Inc. in Woburn, Mass., obtained a small federal grant to develop a prototype "fuel cell on a chip" for handheld electronic devices. It's expected to have a runtime that's five to 10 times better than the leading battery technology.

• NEC Corp. in Tokyo recently announced that it has integrated an organic LED (OLED) display and the drivers necessary to run it on a single piece of glass (see photo above). That will make the displays small and cheap enough for use on third-generation cell phones. — IDG News Service

• About 10% of laptop computers break during their first year of use, according to Meta Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn. And the consultancy says another 10% to 15% of laptops are simply lost.

• Users can expect the processing speed of Intel Corp.'s desktop processors to hit 15 GHz by 2010, the chip maker's chief technology officer said in Tokyo last month. And the speed of processors for wireless and handheld devices will reach 5 GHz by 2010. — IDG News Service

• High-quality PCs at bargain prices are hot items in German supermarkets, with the going price equivalent to $987. Most of the supermarkets offer a 24-month guarantee, technical support and a hot-line service. Computer retailers are scrambling to keep up with the discount pricing. — IDG News Service

Intel Gets It Right—The Second Time

We've been watching and waiting for Intel's Itanium chip family since June 1994—remember the code name Merced?—with a healthy skepticism about it living up to the hype. The first Merced iteration, which shipped in mid-2001, was underwhelming at the kind of integer processing that servers in a corporate IT shop need, says Jonathan Eunice, analyst at Illuminata Inc. in Nashua, N.H.

But the second-generation Itanium 2 is a much more powerful processor, Eunice said in a recent bulletin. The Itanium 2 now easily beats most RISC processors at integer processing, while whipping all RISC processors at floating-point calculations.

The result: Intel's Itanium chip is finally fulfilling its promise and now ranks as a "stunningly good" chip for servers, "not just another RISC wannabe," Eunice says.

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Buying Plans

Vertical Industry Sites Most Interested In Buying PCs (September 2002)

1. Higher education 2. State government 3. Local government 4. Insurance carriers 5. Hospitals

Vertical Industry Sites Most Interested In Buying Servers (September 2002)

1. Higher education 2. State government 3. Hospitals 4. Retail 5. Local government

Base: Survey of buying plans of 398,673 IT buyers in North America

Source: Harte-Hanks Inc., San Antonio
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Baby Blue

This baby has all the buzzwords covered. It’s the TeleClient MC3000 Wireless Web Tablet Thin Client from TeleVideo Inc. in San Jose. The MC3000 weighs 3 lb., is less than 1 in. thick and is slightly larger than a standard 8.5- by 11-in. sheet of paper. It’s intended to be a portable thin client for vertical markets such as health care, retail and manufacturing. The battery-powered tablet has built-in support for 802.11b wireless LANs, a touch-screen LCD display with an on-screen software keyboard, and Universal Serial Bus ports to connect old-fashioned devices like a keyboard, mouse or printer.

The TeleClient MC3000 Wireless Web Tablet Thin Client from TeleVideo Inc.

Special Report

IT Hardware: The Shape of Things to Come

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Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

  
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