The Little Things

Pepcom held its annual Holiday Spectacular this week in New York, where several dozen companies set up booths to promote products that will be in stores for the holidays.

During the event, the technology press shuffles along from booth to booth, picking up souvenir pens with company logos, along with product literature. We get demos when available and listen to spiels from eager marketing and sales types who want to convince us that their gadget or gizmo is the next big thing.

We see everything from iPod cases to HD camcorders - with a lot of sometimes cool, sometimes silly, and often more-difficult-than-they-need-to-be products in between.

The latter hit home when I reached the third booth in the parade and realized I had not yet found a pen that worked. The pen that Pepcom gave us when we walked in produced a very faint blue ink.

Memory company Kingston gave out a pen at its booth with a protective plastic nub on the end that plugged up the ink altogether. The PR guy who was there to tout the virtues of Kingston's multimedia Mobility Kit bundle first had to pry the plastic tip off the end of the pen so I could take notes.

I hit Nikon next where I got a peek at the company's new $5K D3 pro camera which is sure to wow well-heeled consumers and pros with its 9-shot-per-second continuous shot capability and dual Compact Flash card slots. I picked up a pen at Nikon, too, but it didn't work at all. The PR guy at Nikon knew the fix. He took out his handy Zippo, fired it up over the tip of the ballpoint and words flowed from the pen.

I had to wonder....If companies can't even get simple pens to work out of the box, how will consumers ever get the software-driven stuff?--Rebecca Day