Wireless Net, Linux, Win2000 to take center stage
(IDG) -- Wireless Internet, electronic commerce, stripped-down PCs, Linux and Windows 2000 are some of the themes expected to take center stage at this year's CeBIT exhibition, taking place Feb. 24 to March 1 in Hanover, Germany.
With some 7,500 exhibitors spread out over 408,839 square meters of floor space in 26 halls, the show can lay claim to the title of the world's largest IT event. Despite its mammoth size, however, the show maintains a distinctly German flavor. While the exhibitors come from all over the world, with the Taiwanese contingent topping the list of international exhibitors, more than two-thirds of the 698,000 visitors that attended CeBIT last year came from Germany.
"It feels more German than it used to be," said Howard Seabrook, European services director with Dataquest, a subsidiary of Gartner Group.
Exhibits are grouped by topics including information technology, telecommunications, software (including electronic commerce and services), network computing, office automation, card technology, security equipment and bank technology.
The Internet will pervade nearly every booth at the show, and CeBIT itself is "going Internet" this year with a service that lets exhibitors transmit live audio and video casts of press conferences via the 'Net. Owners of WAP (wireless application protocol)-enabled mobile phones will also be able to receive show updates in German or English in the form of text messages, according to show organizer Messe AG.
The fledgling market for WAP-phones and related applications -- which allow users to access Internet-based information via their mobile phones -- will be a major focus of the wireless arena at CeBIT. Besides gawking at the latest WAP handsets from the likes of L.M. Ericsson Telephone, Motorola, Nokia and Siemens, attendees will also be offered demonstrations of WAP-based applications. German e-commerce vendor Brokat, for example, will show how users can conduct mobile banking via their WAP-enabled phones.
IBM and Symbian, meanwhile, will for the first time publicly demonstrate their jointly developed wireless management information systems, including travel and banking applications, the companies said.
NEC will show a prototype of a videophone, or mobile phone with video capabilities, designed for the upcoming third-generation mobile phone networks, the Tokyo-based company said.
A special Bluetooth pavilion will also show future applications for the emerging wireless radio technology designed to link devices within a range of about ten meters. Siemens - one of the show's largest single exhibitors -- will demonstrate prototypes of products using Bluetooth for in-house communications. Nokia and Fuji Photo Film, meanwhile, will demonstrate how images can be sent directly from a digital camera to a mobile phone handset using Bluetooth.
In the handheld device arena, show highlights will include the first color-screen devices from 3Com's Palm Computing, and a prototype of a personal digital assistant from South Korea's Samsung Electronic that runs the Linux operating system, according to Alison McKenzie, a London-based analyst at market researcher International Data Corp. (IDC).
The venerable PC is also changing shape, with the so-called iMac effect showing the influence Apple Computer Inc. has had on the PC industry to be an important element this year in hardware, said Catherine Pennington, an analyst with IDC's personal systems group in London.
Users will be able to view colorful products that, for lack of a better name, are being called stripped-down PCs. Computer vendors are pitching them as more stylish-looking and easier-to-use than older desktop PC designs. In this category will be Hewlett-Packard's e-PC as well as Compaq's iPaq, which began shipping only last month, Pennington said.
This new class of PCs feature a simplified design using USB (universal serial bus) ports to connect peripherals to the computer. At a special USB pavilion, users can also view the latest peripherals products.
The latest notebook PCs may also steal the show. "This will be a hotter area than desktop PCs," Pennington said.
Users can expect to see smaller form factors for notebooks and high-end models featuring Intels new SpeedStep processor technology, Pennington said. SpeedStep lets the processor run at full speed when plugged into a power outlet, but conserves power by running at a lower clock-speed when on battery power.
Server vendors, meanwhile, will aim to show how their products are the right choice for e-commerce. IBM's Personal Systems Group, for example, will show the latest Netfinity servers featuring Chipkill memory-correcting technology, which protects the server from going down due to a memory-chip failure.
Microsoft can also be expected to hog the spotlight. CeBIT will provide the software giant with the first major opportunity to publicly show off its Windows 2000 operating system aimed at corporate users, following its Feb. 17 launch.
In addition to checking out all the various flavors of the new operating system, attendees can also participate in Windows 2000 workshops, where users can see the capabilities of the new operating system and accompanying tools, Microsoft said on its Web site.
E-commerce will be a big focus for many software vendors and systems integrators, with business-to-business (B2B) applications at the center. ERP (enterprise resource planning) software vendor SAP AG, for example, will show the latest developments in mySAP.com, its Internet-based lineup of products, while Intershop AG will showcase a B2B application it developed for A. WŸrth KG, a manufacturer of fasteners and assembly technology.
Database vendor Sybase, meanwhile, plans to show off its new enterprise portal application, and demonstrate how it can be integrated into SAP's R/3 environment. One U.S. company that had planned to show its tools for building an e-commerce site could not get it together in time, however. International Brands cancelled its CeBIT appearance after it concluded that its SmartSite and SmartSite Manager tools are not yet ready-for-prime time.
Linux will also boast its own pavilion this year, where users can chart vendors' progress in turning out applications based on the open-source operating system. Besides the likes of Red Hat Software and SuSE, lesser-known names such as Finnish Linux distributor SOT, Finnish Software Engineering will be there. The company is showing the final English-language release version of its Linux distribution, promising that it will "dispel the myth of Linux as a server-only operating system," according to a company statement.
Interest in the theme of security is also sure to be high following the publicity surrounding recent hack attacks against major Web sites. One of many major security software vendors at the show, Network Associates's McAfee subsidiary will put the spotlight on Active Virus Defense, its next-generation anti-virus software suite aimed at corporate users. The integrated software suite adds a range of new features, including centralized policy management and enforcement, enterprise reporting, virus analysis and fixes, as well as faster company-wide updating capabilities, to McAfee's current Total Virus Defense package, the company said.
Some vendors, including SAP and J.D. Edwards will also be showcasing their latest application service provider offerings. It remains to be seen how enthusiastically European businesses will embrace the vision of renting rather than buying their own applications.
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