CeBIT 2007 Final Words

Gordon talks about what he saw and what he sees as the road ahead, not just for technology, but the show itself.

CeBIT ends today and as you may have noticed the world has already moved onto other things. In a way this is a sentiment which sums up the current state of Europe’s biggest technology show: much fanfare, some good stories, quickly forgotten.

nVidia, Pioneer, BenQ, HP/Compaq, Lenovo, VIA, Shuttle, Kingston, rock and Sure were just some of the companies who chose not to set up stands at CeBIT 2007 and with Hall 18 and the entire pavilion unused there was conspicuous empty space in Hannover this year. Even our much loved press taxi service has seen cars cut by 50 per cent, a fact my feet spotted long before a driver confirmed my fears.

That said, CeBIT still represents a kind of technological nirvana. It remains the crowning European event where punters can mingle with companies and get a proper hands-on feel for the equipment they want to buy.

This is an important last sentence however: ‘the equipment they want to buy’ and it may be apparent that most of the announcements made this year have been around affordable GPS systems, notebooks, monitors and midrange mobiles. Sure, the odd ludicrous 205in TV turned up but in general products were practical rather than exorbitant.

I would suggest there are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, as I suggested in my preview high definition multimedia equipment is in its second generation – bringing down prices and trying to appeal to the mass market. Secondly, with a medium sized stand costing around £1m companies are determined to see a return in these profit warning times, so while a 108in LCD catches the eye, it doesn’t sell. Thirdly, the format of the show itself is in gradual decline as companies don’t want to stand toe-to-toe with one another but rather spend money to host their own events.

All of which would explain why announcements like Samsung’s Q1 Ultra and Asus’ new notebooks were the stars of the show and Panasonic thought it could get away with re-announcing the 42in 1080p plasma already demoed at CES. Ground breaking announcements? There were none and the fact that Philips’ Ambilight Speakers were my favourite thing at the show speaks volumes.

So what can we take from CeBIT 2007? Well, technology is certainly in a period of evolution rather than revolution. High Definition – particularly 1080p – is filtering down the food chain with image quality the main focus, not new sizes and standards. Mobiles mostly contain the features seen in handsets 12 months ago but in slimmer more consumer-friendly form factors and UMPCs may not be a complete waste of space altogether.

The growing feeling is that Blu-ray may edge out HD DVD but that no one will care much because of the move towards dual format players and streaming media. Meanwhile laptops and desktops finally strive for decent integrated graphics thanks to Vista and there is a new buzz about being environmentally friendly in both their construction materials and power consumption.

CeBIT 2008? Simple really: further price drops, say… £600 for a 1080p 37in LCD, HD players from £200/£250, 5MP camera phones, 10-15mm thick smartphones, laptops with five hours battery life (in Vista), UMPCs properly hitting the mass market and possibly – since we’ll have all become so comfortable – the first talk about moving to new standards (eg: Windows Vienna, going beyond 1080p, HSUPA and the phrase ‘recyclable’). As for the show itself, companies will continue to drop out, announcements will become increasingly low end and question marks will be raised about CeBIT’s future.

Personally, I can’t see the death of CeBIT for a while… for one, there is currently no decent alternative and two, my feet aren’t that lucky!


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