Wireless an apparent bright spot at Comdex

Wireless emerged as the one bright spot at this year's shrunken and lightly attended Comdex/Fall 2002 trade show, with both wireless LAN and enterprise satellite data vendors reporting their best year in a long time in terms of booth traffic and solid sales leads.

Brian Grimm, a spokesman for the Wi-Fi Alliance, said Comdex 2002 was "the best year ever" for the industry association and for members who exhibited -- even better than the Comdex 2000 show at the tail end of the tech industry stock boom. Grimm said vendors exhibiting in the Wi-Fi Alliance area of the convention center this year recorded more than 2,000 "quality" sales leads.

That popularity reflects the explosive growth in WLAN products and sales. The Wi-Fi Alliance has certified 142 new products during the past quarter, according to Dennis Eaton, chairman of the industry group. That is 40 percent more products than the alliance certified in the previous quarter and now puts the number of certified WLAN products at 509. The majority of those products operate under the 802.11b standard, which provides raw data throughputs of 11M bit/sec. in the 2.4-GHz band.

Dataquest, a unit of Gartner, predicts that WLAN shipments will hit 15.5 million units (both access points and clients) and almost double to 26.5 million units next year. Dataquest forecast that by the end of next year, close to 50 percent of all PCs used by mobile professionals will come equipped with WLAN hardware. That compares with only 9 percent in 2000.

Satellite data vendors also attracted a large pool of quality buyers, according to Jon Haugan, president of OptiStreams. OptiStreams is a valued-added reseller for high-speed data services over the satellite systems operated by Hughes Electronics.

Haugan said that in terms of traffic and quality buyers, this was his best Comdex in a decade. "The quality [of potential customers] is the highest I have ever seen," Haugan said. "These are high-quality decision-makers."

OptiStreams provides satellite data services to remote offices of large enterprises, as well as high-speed Internet connections to small and medium-size businesses in remote locations.

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