Almost every Computex Conference I've attended since the first one I went to in 1989 had a broad, underlying theme that the major hardware vendors agreed about. Some of these were ill-fated ideas whose day was never to arrive, but Computex in Taipei 2006 seemed to me and other independent observers, to lack such a theme or much in the way of excitement for that matter.
There's a fair few reasons for this. Last year, there was a great deal of buzz about future CPU products from Intel and AMD, but now the motherboard manufacturers are at the building stage. While stands showed some cute ideas, nothing was particularly amazing.
In truth, behind the scenes, there appeared to be quite a bit of despondency
among both independent chipset makers and motherboard manufacturers. Breakaway
consolidation and razor thin margins make for gloom and doom in the motherboard
sector. It's much harder to be a third party motherboard manufacturer than ever
before although the manufacturers are giving it their best.
There are also fewer familiar UK faces at Computex - a trend that's become pronounced in recent years. Time was when you could pop into the bankrupt engendering Cheers bar at the Grand Hyatt, and you'd see many a familiar UK face. But there are fewer and fewer independent system integrators here in the UK, and the few Brits that do turn up at Computex these days tend to stay a max of two days to do their business.
It's not just Computex that's showing these strains - CeBIT is a shadow of what it was, there's no Comdex anymore, and CES is of limited interest to the traditional hardware community. It's partly a function of the expense of exhibiting for the vendors, and the cost of attending for those who might. That, coupled with the ease of using the Internet and the rationale for many of these trade shows tends to disappear.
Not that there weren't exceptions to the rule. The suites at the Grand Hyatt are always good value. Intel, AMD and ATI put a lot of effort into keeping the public, their partners, and their customers entertained and informed. But many partners and customers are already well briefed in advance these days and don't need to come to Taipei to know what's going on. We did note that the number of buyers from emerging countries seemed higher than before - in countries such as India, for example, the channel appears to be as exciting and full of drama as the UK and Western Europe was 10 to 15 years ago.
Taiwan itself is way more sophisticated and prosperous than it was since our first visit in 1989, but questions remain over the direction the island will take in the future. Most manufacturing has now shifted to the mainland, but no-one seems interested in a show in Shanghai, with various folk attempting it, but none yet succeeding.
Computex 2006 was all a little, well, samey - and perhaps that's a reflection of just how sophisticated the IT business has become over the last six years or so. There's less drama, less big deals to be made, and way fewer players, with that trend set to continue in the next year or two.
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