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March 07, 2006

Electronics And Media Move To Next Level At CeBIT (Reuters)

Personal Tech Pipeline

HANOVER, Germany (Reuters) - CeBIT, the world's biggest technology and telecoms fair, which starts Wednesday, will showcase how fast networks can link high definition TV and wireless gadgets, and a mysterious new product from Microsoft <MSFT.O>.

The World Cup soccer finals in Germany this summer, broadcast in high definition and mobile TV, will show Europeans that the next stage of electronics has arrived. Companies hope it will kickstart the next major cycle of product upgrades.

The first signs were visible in the fourth quarter of 2005 when, after years of stagnation, TV set revenues grew 13 percent year-on-year as consumers snapped up flat screen and high definition TVs, according to market research from DisplaySearch.

High definition TV (HDTV) will also put the spotlight on new, higher capacity storage versions of DVD.

The rival Blu-ray and HD DVD formats will make their case at CeBIT as they move from a war of words to an all-out commercial fight for the $24 billion a year home video market.

The annual trade show in the northern German city of Hanover, now in its 20th year, expects to attract more than 6,000 exhibitors and around half a million visitors this year, about the same number as in 2005.

Although the show is aimed at business rather than consumers, firms ranging from software makers to telecoms operators hope entertainment technology integrated into work devices will prove just as attractive to business users as it has to teenagers.

The show, more than ever before, celebrates the evaporating boundaries between traditionally distinct industries. Telecoms operators will show off their first television delivery services over the Internet, which go commercial this year.

Meanwhile, cable operators and new wireless communications firms offer everything from TV and Internet to voice calls over the Internet, and mobile telecoms firms have pinned their hopes on TV on portable devices. New TV sets with built-in wireless Wi-Fi Internet connections can just as easily show an on-demand TV show streaming from the Internet as pictures from a home PC.


One of the eagerly awaited announcements at this year's CeBIT will be the unveiling of Microsoft's <MSFT.O> mysterious Origami device, which has been trailed for weeks on a website registered by the company (

The campaign has fueled speculation of a new device designed to rival the phenomenal success of Apple's <AAPL.O> iPod or Sony's <6758.T> Playstation Portable.

One media report said it would be a smaller, lighter version of current tablet computers that allows users to write and draw pictures with a digital pen and play music and movies.

"The iPod is great. But already Apple is saying it wants to evolve what that form factor can do. Is Apple the only company that is going to provide innovative form factors?" Neil Holloway, Microsoft's European president, told Reuters.

While he declined to confirm or deny the existence of the Origami device, he said there is still huge potential to improve portable and digital devices through software, enabling consumers more easily to access and control digital content like music and video and even their home environment.


Organizers of the CeBIT fair, which has leaned more toward consumer electronics over the years, say they are unfazed by the fact that consumer electronics trade show IFA in Berlin, 125 miles east of Hanover, will now take place annually instead of every two years.

CeBIT organizers say IFA is far more dependent on the domestic German market.

"It is precisely the international orientation of the CeBIT business concept that characterizes this event and makes it so special," they said in a statement.

This year, CeBIT expects more than half its exhibitors to come from outside Germany, from 70 different countries.

The leading exhibiting nation will be Taiwan, with more than 700 companies showing off their wares, followed by China, South Korea and the United States.

On the corporate side, the focus will be on RFID (radio frequency identification) tags and products designed for the banking and finance sectors. So-called eHealth in the public sector, including electronic health cards, will also be a theme.

Car navigation, an exploding market in the last two years, will also play an important role.

By: Lucas van Grinsven and Georgina Prodhan

Copyright 2006 Reuters. Click for Restrictions

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