The computer and cable TV industries held major trade shows and the convergence of the two industries in the new-media age was abundantly clear. Several key executives put in appearances at both shows, while some major companies seemed at first glance to have shown up in the wrong place.
Computer chipmaker Intel Corp., for example, had no booth at the computer industry's Comdex/Spring show in Atlanta but made plenty of noise at the National Cable Television Association meeting in New Orleans, showcasing its work with online services and cable companies.
And while Turner Broadcasting System put in an appearance at NCTA, it also took its first-ever booth at Comdex, held across the street from Turner's home office.
"This is our coming-out party to the interactive world," Turner Home Entertainment President Philip Kent told computer journalists. "This is my first Comdex and our first slate of products, and there's much more to come."
The only product currently available under the Turner Interactive brand is "Gettysburg," a CD-ROM game that uses footage from Turner Pictures' movie of the same title.
Among the frequent fliers attending both shows were Microsoft Corp. VP Jonathan Lazarus, the giant software compa-ny's designated dealmaker for digital convergence, and computer analyst Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies Research International, San Jose, Calif. Mr. Bajarin counts cable giant Tele-Communications Inc. among his clients.
With Intel a Comdex no-show, the anticipated chip war between its Pentium microprocessor and the IBM Corp./Motorola/Apple Computer PowerPC never materialized.
The loudest buzz on the floor was in the area of wireless communications, led by Apple hawking its repositioned Newton MessagePad as a business tool rather than a mass market product.
But Motorola President-Chief Operating Officer Christopher Galvin used his keynote address to warn that the road to the multimedia era will be a long one. Although consumer markets will develop eventually, he said, Motorola is putting much of its energy into narrower business markets.
Referring to the hype about multimedia deals, Mr. Galvin said: "It's the first industry that's essentially been created by press release."
AT NCTA, computer hardware and software vendors overshadowed start-up news from upwards of 100 new cable channels.
"The cable show is representing what video will be like in the future. That's more than just TV," said Laurie Frick, marketing manager of the interactive television appliances division of Hewlett Packard Co.
Among the computer industry announcements at NCTA:
Apple, IBM and Scientific-Atlanta agreed to work together to create an open architecture for the interactive TV marketplace.
Microsoft unveiled its continuous media server software, code-named "Tiger," to be used in interactive cable tests with TCI in Denver and Seattle and with Rogers Cablesystems in Canada.
Prodigy Services Co. said it plans to introduce a "suite" of interactive services created for personal computers connected to broadband coaxial cable that will be deployed within the next few months through cable systems operated by Media General, Cox Cable, Viacom and Comcast.M
By Tim Clark and Bradley Johnson from Atlanta and Joe Mandese from New Orleans.