Hardware industry converges on Taipei

Wireless devices, a high-powered graphics chip set and the debut of the next generation of microprocessor manufacturing are expected to share the spotlight next week at Computex Taipei 2001, the annual convergence in Taiwan’s capital of IT hardware vendors and buyers from around the world.

Chip makers Intel Corp., Via Technologies Inc. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. are all set to make significant product announcements during the five-day trade show at the Taipei World Trade Center. Also aiming to make a splash are graphics chipset maker NVidia Corp., PDA (personal digital assistant) operating system vendor Penbex Data Systems Inc., and dozens of vendors of Bluetooth wireless network-equipped products.

Each year the show puts on stage the huge IT hardware industry of this island nation, where much of the world’s computing equipment is manufactured. Last year’s show drew more than 7,000 buyers and 1,031 exhibitors, according to the Taipei Computer Association and the China External Trade Development Council, which organize the event.

Amid the doldrums of a sluggish world market for processors, chipmakers will come to Computex to tout new products and at least one notable technological advance.

Via Technologies, a major Taiwan-based semiconductor vendor that in 1999 bought the Cyrix processor business of National Semiconductor Corp., on Tuesday will introduce what it says will be the world’s first line of PC processors mass-produced using a 0.13-micron manufacturing process. The process does the 0.15-micron technology now used by Intel and other vendors one better by packing circuits more tightly on the chip, allowing for faster performance and a smaller processor.

AMD on Thursday will unveil the latest versions of its Athlon and Duron processors, rated at 1.4GHz and 950MHz, respectively. The new Duron will extend AMD’s speed lead over Intel’s Celeron line, which currently tops out at 850MHz.

Intel is not standing on the sidelines, however, promising a major PC-related announcement. Last year, the chip maker chose Computex as the stage for launching its 820E chip set, the first that allowed manufacturers to integrate networking capability directly into the chip set.

Meanwhile, emerging network technologies will be in the spotlight, with both Bluetooth wireless capability and the IEEE 1394 standard, also called FireWire, widely adopted. Taiwanese OEM (original equipment manufacturer) First International Computer Inc. plans to show off 100 examples of Bluetooth modules for PDAs, notebook PCs and other devices. A 1394 Pavilion on the show floor will feature demonstrations by 21 Taiwanese hardware vendors of the 400M bps (bit per second) IEEE 1394 multimedia network technology.

Penbex will host a showroom off the Computex show floor for demonstrations of new PDAs and software applications that work with its Chinese PDA operating system. Penbex has more than 300 independent software vendor partners and an army of 3,000 developers working on its platform, according to a company statement.

Internet appliances, which were a highlight of last year’s Computex, are expected to proliferate again this year. More than 100 exhibitors will show off examples of the PC alternatives for Internet access, according to the organizers.

Computex will begin Monday, June 4, and continue through Friday, June 8. More information is available at http://www.computex.com.tw/comp2001/.