Letter From Comdex: Cool Gadgets, Cold Industry

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Comdex, the annual computer-related geekfest in Las Vegas, may be going the way of the dotcom bubble. Crowds are dwindling, and those who did show had to look harder to find the cool gadgets. But the gadgets were there. Microsoft chairman Bill Gates unveiled Smart Personal Object Technology, which allows refrigerator magnets, travel clocks and other tiny devices to update you on news, sports and weather via a wireless Internet chip. Gates is also pushing Smart Displays--thin, $1,000 computer screens you can take with you around the house and write notes on, as you would with a tablet-style PC.

Meanwhile, Fossil wants to make sure you never leave home without your Palm Pilot. The watchmaker has shrunk a 2-MB Palm to wristwatch size. It costs $199 with a plastic wristband and $299 with a flashy metallic one.

Flashiness is something this industry has largely lost. The exception: Advanced Micro Devices CEO Hector Ruiz brought Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash onstage for a rendition of Knockin' on Heaven's Door. It may become Comdex's eulogy.