Once you got past the voice-activated light switches and the multimedia advances in Internet pornography, this week's 2000 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) actually had news that corporate IS managers should note.
For instance, Intel Corp. jumped into the Web appliance market by revealing plans to offer an array of hardware and software products. These products, along with a range of development services, are designed to help telcos and ISPs create new Web services that will be accessed by a range of Web appliances, including handhelds.
Officials said Intel is creating its own line of Linux-based Web appliances, which carriers will be able to buy in bulk and resell or give away to users who subscribe to the carriers' services. The first products will be available around midyear.
Along with other partners, Intel will help the service providers develop new applications, and information, for these appliances. Finally, Intel is building management software that will let the carriers remotely support and manage the new services.
Despite the seeming consumer focus of the announcement, the carriers are likely to see the biggest -- and most profitable -- demand for such wireless services from businesses.
Not to be outdone by its sometimes partner, Microsoft Corp. made a splash at CES, with a keynote address by CEO Bill Gates and new announcements in the appliance market, including some further tinkering with the Windows CE operating system, and an expansion of wireless Web access services.
During his speech, Gates demonstrated a new class of device, based on yet another version of Windows CE, called the Pocket PC. Microsoft seems to have stripped yet more from Windows CE to make the Pocket PC platform, formerly called Rapier, simpler to use and easier to write for.
The new devices, to be built by Compaq, Casio, Hewlett-Packard and other vendors, will include Microsoft Reader, a program that greatly sharpens the appearance of text on an LCD screen.
Microsoft also said it will offer its MSN Mobile Service through carriers and service providers. These third parties can now package MSN Mobile, which gives subscribers wireless access to the Microsoft Network (MSN).
In addition, Microsoft unveiled MSN Mobile Service 2.0, which now will run on Web-enabled cellular phones. MSN Mobile 2.0 will be integrated with MSN Hotmail, Microsoft's Web-based e-mail service, and with other Microsoft offerings, such as MSN Money Central and Expedia.com.
(Additional reporting by IDG News Service)