CONSIDERING that hardware has traditionally been the main focus of computer exhibitions in Hong Kong, Software Exhibition '94 is something of an odd bird. The ninth in a series, the show took place last week at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, and focused on a rather general theme: The Growing IT Market. With about 90 local and international exhibitors, the show is smaller than others in Hong Kong, but still several well-known local names were present. These included Creative Labs, which makes the SoundBlaster series of sound cards and multi-media kits, and Motorola, which was demonstrating its latest PC release, the PowerStack series of PowerPC-based computers. One of the trends noticeable at the show was the growing number of Chinese-language solutions and multimedia. There were demonstrations at two booths of Chinese handwriting recognition products as alternatives to keyboard-based methods of inputting Chinese. There were several other products for entering Chinese in DOS and Windows, including the well-known Twinbridge solution for Windows and a Cantonese input system from World Express Computer Systems. Given that many input methods are geared towards Mandarin, often excluding specifically Cantonese characters, this may prove popular. Other areas of Chinese processing on display were desktop publishing systems, such as the Jupiter Graphical Desktop Publishing System from World Express, translation systems such as the K. S. Chinese and English Translation System from Han Information System Co, and language training software, including Mandarin and Cantonese learning products from CompuProject Services. Multimedia was also popular. Other than Apex Computronics and its booth that focused on Creative Labs, with everything from SoundBlaster systems to VideoBlaster Systems and PC-based karaoke systems, several other vendors displayed multimedia solutions. Local distributor PacRim Technologies was, as expected, displaying several multimedia solutions, including Macromedia's line of software products and applications from Adobe. Other interesting multimedia products included Media House for Windows, which is a multimedia document manager from Reptron Computer, and several CD-ROM titles from SAST Optical Information, among which were Pharmacopoeia of China, Chinese Dishes in Beijing and Companies China. Oddly, many booths at the Software Exhibition focused on hardware - notebook computers, desktop computers and accessories, such as overhead projection systems. A seminar programme that ran in conjunction with the exhibition focused on many of the trends highlighted in the exhibits. Some topics covered were interactive multimedia and video conferencing. There were also several Chinese-language related presentations in Cantonese. As part of the show, Skynet Consultants, which resells anti-virus and security products, challenged visitors to crack a PC/DACS data file. As a sign of the company's confidence, it offered an AT&T Globalyst Pentium-based PC to any one who could hack past the security. Skynet representatives said while only a few people tried to hack the security, they returned after reworking their hacking strategy and came back with the requisite tools.