By Published on .

Hewlett-Packard Europe's Roger Williams excites consumers by showing them a model of a filmless camera that can download movies onto a TV screen, create color prints with a video printer and zap copies of the pictures to friends and relatives via the Internet. "Can I have one next week?" Mr. Williams, communications and public affairs director, Geneva, said he is often asked.

The camera doesn't actually exist-except on a Hewlett-Packard video of 56 products that could be in use in the year 2001, and as a tool for market research into branding. But HP already has a videojet printer for the professional market, and the company signed a digital imaging agreement with Eastman Kodak in March to develop and market products jointly. So before the turn of the century the combination camera/camcorder could be in the local mall.

For emerging global high tech brands, it is easier to envision the product rather than predict which company or alliance of companies will make it.

"By the year 2000, we'll see the convergence of computing, communications and consumer electronics," said John Crawford, Intel fellow and director of microprocessor architecture at Intel Corp., Santa Clara, Calif. "In [U.S.] homes we're already seeing a huge growth of PC sales. Today you have a separate phone, answering machine, television. .....In the future, potentially, you could see a lot of those functions combined in the PC-based system."

Product ideas that have been around for a while may finally take off, industry analysts say. The videophone, for example, has been talked about since the '60s, but PC users should be able to see it in wide use by the year 2000. The increasing power of the PC, the falling price of videoconferencing technology and growing availability of high-powered phone lines will allow the office PC to merge with the phone-and office workers may be able to hold telecommunication meetings while sitting at their computers. Intel, AT&T and others will vie for leadership in this market.

Early personal communicators such as Apple Computer's Newton flopped partly because they couldn't perform many functions. But useful devices that could act as electronic wallet, pager/phone and remote PC have a potentially huge market. And better yet, such a device may be worn on the wristband as part of a watch.

In the battle of the online services, CompuServe is hoping the launch of Microsoft Network does not jeopardize CompuServe's chances to become a major global brand in a world swiftly going Internet-mad. Internet usage in Europe has nearly tripled this year to an estimated 172,000 users from 65,000 last year.

CompuServe started advertising in the U.K. last fall and has entered Germany, France, the Netherlands and Sweden. Rival America Online, with an estimated 22% of the online market to CompuServe's 40% worldwide, enters Europe this fall in a partnership with German media group Bertelsmann.

Gateway 2000 is a global high-tech brand emerging from North Sioux City, S.D. The largest U.S. marketer of mail-order PCs, Gateway 2000 is known for packing the latest features at a value price. Non-U.S. sales accounted for just 7% of its $2.7 billion in revenue last year, but that will change fast.

Already in the U.K. and a few other markets, the company expanded to France and Germany last year. It will break its first ads, by Dentsu, this month in Japan. Gateway 2000 recently bought Osborne Computer Corp., Australia's leading desktop-computer manufacturing company.

The Japanese "like ordering American products though a catalog," said Al Giazzon, director of marketing at Gateway 2000. "People [in Japan] have been buying Gateway systems even without our doing any intense marketing there."

"In an information age, brands become more, not less, important," said Paul Saffo, director of the Institute for the Future, Menlo Park, Calif. "And so the concept of branding is going to be at least as big a deal in 2000-I think actually an even bigger deal, for the simple reason that brands are a shorthand for certain qualities. In a world where we're getting steadily more overloaded with information, we become steadily more dependent on shorthand as an indicator of reliability and value.'

Kate Bertrand and Brad Johnson contributed to this story.

Most Popular
In this article: