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Tech Industry

New stars of high tech

Are the chiefs of networking companies the next big stars of the high-tech world?

Are the chiefs of networking companies the next superstars of the high-tech world?

It becomes clearer every day that bandwidth, access, and speed are the solutions to the obstacles constraining the Internet's continued growth. And networking hardware and software companies, which hold the necessary tools for breaking down those obstacles, are becoming the stalwarts of a brave new connected world.

And what better venue for garnering attention than Comdex, the megawatt industry extravaganza held each year in the capital of all that is glitz: Las Vegas.

Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers
While Bill Gates, as usual, headlined this year's show, he was followed later in the week by CEOs John Chambers of Cisco Systems and Eric Schmidt of Novell.

The keynote appearances by the two chief executives represent the emergence of networking from its esoteric roots in corporate computing into the popular consciousness. Indeed, both men delivered the type of visionary addresses more befitting industry titans than the nuts-and-bolts remarks of router and switch conventions, with Chambers waxing over the Internet revolution, and Schmidt appealing for the human side of networking.

Network suppliers make up a $109 billion segment of the high technology industry, according to J.P. Morgan. But makers have toiled in relative obscurity, overshadowed by the household names of consumer PC sales, Microsoft and Intel.

For years, networking hardware and software makers have been getting rich supplying hugely

Chambers on
the Internet revolution
complicated equipment to insurance providers, telecommunications companies, and other Fortune 1,000 firms. Their names were well known by the IS staffs of the world, but few people outside the business could name a single router maker, never mind explain what a router actually is.

But with the explosive growth and mainstream popularity of the Internet--and a rising awareness among the lay population of such technical mundanity as Internet Protocol addresses and dial-up networking--networking firms see that the time is right to steal some of the limelight.

And by all signs, bigwigs at Cisco, Novell, 3Com, Bay Networks, and other companies are enjoying their new status immensely.

3Com's name now adorns San Francisco's football and baseball stadium. Novell's Schmidt addresses television viewers on a regularly aired PBS commercial. Bay boasts David House, a high-profile executive from Intel. And Compaq Computer, a newcomer to the networking business, is angling to tattoo its moniker on a Houston sports complex.

Multibillion-dollar software giant Oracle is finally raising its profile with the consumer market through ads touting its network computing scheme intended to bring Net access to the masses. And Intel, of course, is boogeying down Broadway with its peacock-hued lab technicians.

Could a People magazine cover be far off?  

Go to: Comdex special report schedule