The focus of this year's Computex shifted to peripherals, consumer electronics and wireless lounge products This year's Computex Taipei was as un-computer-centric as it has ever been, with the focus having clearly shifted to peripherals and consumer electronics. The buzz on the show floor was on flat-screen televisions and displays, voice over internet protocol, home entertainment devices and personal digital assistant phones. The PC appeared to have been relegated to a subsidiary position and, when it did feature, it was in design and looks rather than power or features. Sales of liquid-crystal display TVs are expected to take off this year following bumper sales of LCD monitors last year. The buzz at last week's Computex indicated that flat-screen TVs will be the must-have item in Santa's sack at the end of the year. At the BenQ stand, European and Japanese customers showed a keen interest in the company's 26- and 30-inch TVs while Asian customers such as Taiwan stuck to the cheaper 26-inch models. Voice over IP and wireless home entertainment products are driving renewed interest in wireless LAN. Dozens of booths popped up this year touting voice over IP-related devices, from routers to videophones. According to Sercomm Corp account manager Sun Li-wei, a big driver of interest has been the wireless lounge concept, whereby speakers, DVD players and TVs are all interconnected using wireless LAN modules. It is a concept that replicates the now failed Mira project initiated by big players such as Microsoft and Intel. Sercomm was among those pushing wireless LAN in the lounge, as well as a voice over IP router that includes a telephone jack and a voice over IP encoder that converts voice to packets for transmission over the internet. Many companies displayed IP videophones that are supposed to use the internet to make clear voice and video calls. But the technology has a long way to go before it becomes easy to use and of sufficient quality. At the Tatung booth, a sales representative blamed 'internet congestion' for the failure of his company's videophones to work, despite them being two metres apart. Sony's decision last week to phase out its Clie line of personal digital assistants appeared to be widely backed by Taiwan PDA makers, who see no future on the horizon for the device. 'It will not be a dead market, but sales will definitely decline further,' said a sales representative from Asus, which was displaying its line of smartphones. 'With products like this, you get the same size and functionality of a PDA in a phone, and the price will continue to go down.' Although smartphones are not new, exhibitors reported higher interest and greater confidence among buyers and distributors, indicating the time may have come for the PDA-phone combination to take off. Eddie Wu, communications products account manager at Eten, which has three PDA phones in its lineup and is looking to sell at least half of the volume under its own brand name, said: 'Last year, this kind of device was quite new and unknown; this year [people] are familiar with them and they are asking for more features.' If the PC-side of the IT business is looking lacklustre, it is because the industry has not given out much to crow about. In past years, Computex was the launching ground for AMD's 64-bit Athlon CPU, nVidia's move into integrated chipsets and nasty chipset battles between Intel and VIA. This year, however, new products to hit the market have been merely evolutionary and there is little in the way of new technology standards such as memory or connection. On the motherboard front, Foxconn drew a lot of attention for being at Computex as opposed to being immensely secretive, as is its modus operandi. Other motherboard makers tried their hardest to inject life into what is an industry in a lull. Abit Computer put in the best effort to whip up some excitement, having flown out gaming champion Johnathan 'Fatal1ty' Wendel to challenge allcomers to a four-minute match, and in doing so promote Abit motherboards. Anyone who could beat him would have won NT$100,000 (HK$23,320). Smaller motherboard makers such as FIC have turned to their own designs to help ship products. Rack after rack of motherboards were this year replaced by a demo home showing off various cute and cool PC chassis designs. Hardly visible were the technical specification sheets that were once a staple of every Computex booth.