Gadgets on parade at CeBit

Covers come off Microsoft's much-teased Origami and other new devices at the giant German trade show this week. Photos: Electronics extravaganza

The technology industry will gather in the German city of Hannover this week to launch the very latest products, unveil corporate strategies and debate the future of technology at the giant CeBit trade show.

This year's CeBit comes at an important time for the tech sector. With corporate IT spending enjoying a modest rise, the future is bright for companies that survived the effects of the dot-com crash and can offer innovative hardware, software or services. But a range of factors--from the rise of Google and Web-based applications, to the broadband boom and the growing popularity of open source--mean even the largest companies can't be sure of the future. No one can afford to waste the opportunity to put their upcoming products in the spotlight.

CeBIT gallery

CeBit is huge, and thousands of technology companies will cram into almost 30 halls, bringing everything from fax machines and printers to smart phones and dual-core chip-based notebooks. We can't predict everything that will grab the headlines and get people talking at the show, but it's clear that there are some key themes and products to watch out for.

Unless something goes seriously wrong between now and then, you can guarantee that on Thursday morning Microsoft will reveal its Origami device. This "ultramobile PC" will use Intel chips and run Windows XP. It is probably a cut-down Tablet PC with a touch-sensitive screen with built-in Wi-Fi and possibly third-generation (3G) connectivity. Samsung is widely expected to have a model on display, and it won't be alone.

Can Origami succeed where the Tablet PC has largely failed? Find out on Thursday, when Microsoft plans to end the suspense and reveal what the project is really about.

Microsoft will also attempt to use the CeBit buzz to drive interest in Windows Vista and Office 12, so it could be a good opportunity to find out what approach companies and consumers should take with both products.

IBM is another company with a lot riding on CeBit. It will be demonstrating high-performance computing, including a project where 150 scientists share one supercomputer. It will also be showing off the Cell chip, which it co-designed; this will include a demonstration of some prototype Cell blade servers running visualization software on massive amounts of scientific and other data.

IBM is also expected to announce a partnership with delivery company DHL involving radio frequency identification tags. RFID, used for tracking inventory and other purposes, should be a big theme at the show.

Intel inside
CeBit clashes with Intel's Developer Forum in California, so the chipmaker might not deliver too many bombshells in Hannover. However, one of Intel's vice presidents, Anand Chandrasekher, is scheduled to deliver a keynote speech at CeBit on Wednesday morning, so he could reveal the direction of Intel's mobile strategy, among other developments.

At just under 100 square meters, Intel's stand at CeBit will be twice as big as in 2005. Business software and technologies designed for the health care business are tipped to be key themes, alongside digital entertainment, where media PCs based on Intel's Viiv chip will be prominent.

We expect that most of the major notebook vendors will be showing off laptops that use Intel's new dual-core mobile processor, the Core Duo.

Shuttle, a maker of small PCs, is planning to announce three new products, including a model that should be smaller and quieter than its previous pint-size computers. Rival AOpen is also expected to unveil a mini PC with a footprint of about 6 inches square that runs on a Core Duo chip and supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

If you're considering investing in new displays, then it may be worth listening for news from Sharp, which is expected to bring a wide range of new liquid-crystal display monitors to CeBit. But if money and size are no object, then check out a screen from Chi Mei Optoelectronics that has a resolution of 3,840 pixels by 2,160 pixels. At 56 inches diagonally, this could be an ideal unit for the next important company presentation (or football game).

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