Java and chip rivalry dominate German fair
Network computing clearly emerged as a dominant market sector at this year's CeBit trade show, which drew 600,000 people last week.
CeBit, rightly billed as the world's largest and most important annual trade show for information and communications technology, is staged at the fair grounds in the northern German city of Hanover.
The grounds have 27 halls, some dwarfing even the largest halls of some convention centres in the United States. Each houses exhibits from a range of industry sectors, including telecommunications, network computing and information technology.
Altogether CeBit commands a physical presence that is remarkable.
The scope of a show like this dwarfs any that might be held in Hong Kong - 600,000 people could never fit in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
A comparison with the closest American equivalent - Comdex - also does not do CeBit justice. Comdex drew only 200,000 visitors to Las Vegas.
In 1997, CeBit boasted almost 6,900 exhibitors, in display areas totalling more than 350,000 square metres, up from 6,549 exhibitors housed in a little more than 338,000 square metres of floor space last year.
Despite the size of the show, it is possible to pinpoint several clear trends emerging. Java computing, as an important force in the network computing space, was the subject of many exhibits and discussions.
There were demonstrations of Java terminal technology from companies that included Sun and IBM, and demonstrations and announcements of at least four office suites for the Java environment including, of course, Corel's Office for Java and German company Star Division's StarOffice, which will be released as a product for the Java environment.
In the PC market, one clear battle seen at CeBit was the battle of the multimedia CPU.
At the show, Cyrix demonstrated its MediaGX technology, an integrated multimedia CPU technology designed to compete against Intel's MMX initiative, which was a noticeable presence in the booths of many PC vendors.
Another emerging product was Windows CE, the new operating system from Microsoft targeted at hand-held devices. Several companies highlighted their hand-held devices based on the operating system, including Casio and Philips.
Even with the emergence of clear trends and the emphasis on the battle between the fast and thin client model, some participants were left feeling dissatisfied.
One German participant, Parand Rohani, said: 'The show was unspectacular.
'There were lots of small developments, but nothing really new.' CeBit is organised by the Hanover-based fair organiser Deutsche Messe, which also organises the Hanover Messe, one of the world's largest industrial fairs.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Deutsche Messe, which held its first fair in 1947.
According to Hubert Lange, a member of the Deutsche Messe board, the 1947 event attracted more than 600,000 visitors - in a four-week period.
'[That many people attended] since everyone who came got a fish sandwich without a ration card,' Mr Lange said.