U.S. CeBit seeks business elite

Unlike sister show CeBit Hannover, which boasts hundreds of thousands of attendees, CeBit America is aiming at a much smaller number of corporate executives.

John G. Spooner Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Spooner
covers the PC market, chips and automotive technology.
John G. Spooner
5 min read
CeBit America, the U.S. offshoot of one of the world's biggest technology trade shows, is shaping up to be the anti-Comdex.

Complete coverage
Spotlight on CeBit
Follow News.com?s coverage
of the New York show.

New notebook computers, PDAs (personal digital assistants) and wireless networking gear are expected to compete for the spotlight at the show, which begins later this week in New York. But unlike Comdex or Germany's CeBit Hannover, which boast hundreds of thousands of attendees, CeBit America is aiming at a much smaller number of business executives.

CeBit America will take over the traditional June time slot of another big show, PC Expo. But CeBit organizers don't expect PC Expo crowds. Instead, the show has registered between 20,000 and 25,000 attendees who are mainly executives at large or midsize companies, said Mark Dineen, managing director of CeBit America.

Dineen said CeBit America designed it that way to focus on exhibitors making good business contacts, instead of having a large number of people filter through a given booth.

"We're not trying to be an event. We're trying to be a quality trade show only," Dineen said. "We're not trying to compete with the historical shows that have been here before. I want people to walk away from the show saying they're very happy with the show because they met the vice president of (a certain company) and that person bought $1 million worth of products."

Some companies are approaching CeBit America with some caution--given that the show is new, one analyst said.

"There seems to have been a fragmentation of focus, given that PC Expo got moved off to the fall and CeBit took the June spot. So people don't seem particularly committed to either show, because in some sense (CeBit) is untested," IDC analyst Roger Kay said. "There seems to be at least some activity, but it's not as much as I think I've seen in prior years when it was PC Expo or TechXNY."

TechXNY, which is the overarching conference the PC Expo show is now part of, this year was moved to September.

CeBit America attendees will be able to peruse about 360 exhibits over approximately 110,000 feet of space that's divided among computer hardware, software and networking categories. A series of smaller pavilions and special panel discussions will focus on mobile technology, computer security, data storage and wireless networking.

Some large computer manufacturers such as Dell Computer will have little, if any, presence at the show. But a host of others, including Hewlett-Packard, have chosen to attend CeBit America to debut new products and technologies aimed at businesses. IBM and Sun Microsystems also will attend.

HP, which has a booth on the show floor, likely will be one of the top names at CeBit America. The company will use the show to officially launch two new business-oriented wireless notebooks--the lightweight HP Compaq nc4000 and nx7000--which it hopes will bolster its position against Dell and IBM.

HP's 4-pound nc4000 will pair a 12.1-inch screen with a 1.4GHz or 1.6GHz Pentium M. The version with the 1.4GHz chip and 802.11b wireless is expected to start at $1,700, while the version that will include a 1.6GHz Pentium M chip will sell for just over $2,000, sources familiar with HP's plans said.

The nx7000 will feature a 15.4-inch wide-angle display and weigh about 6.5 pounds. One nx7000 model will pair the wide-angle display with a 1.4GHz Pentium M for a starting price of about $1,700, while another will be fitted with a 1.6GHz Pentium 4 and will start around $2,000, the sources said.

HP and Adaptec together will debut a new disk drive interface for large data storage systems. The new interface, dubbed Serial Attached SCSI (Small Computer System Interface), will be compatible with formats such as Serial ATA, adding flexibility to storage systems used by businesses. The interface will help make it possible for businesses to design smaller disk drives, the companies said in a statement.

HP also is expected to quietly show off new Presario notebooks for consumers and small businesses and new iPaq PDAs based on the forthcoming Pocket PC 2003 software from Microsoft. Pocket PC 2003 will debut next week.

Talking heads
In a twist, former HP President Michael Capellas, now chief executive of MCI--the company formerly known as WorldCom--will give the opening keynote speech at CeBit America on Wednesday morning.

David Nagel, CEO of PalmSource, also will give a keynote speech that day. PalmSource, the software arm of PDA maker Palm, is expected to announce a wireless messaging product for businesses with partner Visto at the show.

Craig Conway, CEO of PeopleSoft, will take the stage Thursday, and Nobuharu Ono, president of NTT DoCoMo USA, will speak Friday.

Gateway executives also are heading to New York. While Gateway is making a consumer-electronics push designed to help bring it back to profitability, the company plans to use the show to reaffirm its plans to stay in the PC business.

Gateway will announce plans to release the newly approved 802.11g wireless specification on all its notebooks over the next five or six weeks. An 802.11g upgrade on a notebook that already comes standard with 802.11b will add about $30 to the price, Gateway executives said. The company also is expected to show off its first PDA product, a new handheld based on Pocket PC 2003.

Many other companies, such as Hitachi Global Storage, will be at the show to connect with customers. Hitachi Global Storage, formed recently as a joint venture between IBM and Hitachi, isn't expected to make any announcements at the show and will instead provide an overview of its strategy and products, a company representative said.

Meanwhile, Iomega will show off a new multi-format DVD burner drive for PCs. The drive, dubbed Super DVD All Format, will support DVD-rewritable formats, including DVD-RW, DVD+RW and DVD-RAM, allowing purchasers to avoid standardizing on one or the other. The $329 drive will ship in the Unites States in August. It will be available only as an internal PC component at first, though an external version will follow in September, the company said in a statement.

TDV Vision, a company that manufactures computer displays, will introduce nVision, a new tablet PC, based on Transmeta's Crusoe processor. The tablet will feature a 12-inch display and will start at $999, the company said in a statement.

Other show participants will include Intel, Lexmark, Microsoft, Oracle, Sprint, T-Mobile, Toshiba and Xerox.