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Wednesday, 21 March, 2001, 12:42 GMT
Tech firms gather in gadget heaven
Deutsche Messe AG
CeBIT 2001: Over 8,000 exhibitors are expected
By BBC News Online's Ivan Noble in Hanover

Technology firms might be out of fashion on the stock market, but not, they hope, at CeBIT 2001 in Hanover.

Over 8,000 exhibitors are gathering for Europe's main, annual, information technology and telecoms trade fair, which opens to the public on Thursday.

The focus is on e-commerce, a market which analysts still confidently predict will be worth a trillion dollars (681bn) in Europe by 2004.

The week-long event sees the trade fair grounds in Hanover turned into a heaven for the gadget enthusiast, as firms like Ericsson, Nokia and Palm Computing launch the latest mobile phones, personal digital assistants and wireless networking kit.

CeBIT has been going for 15 years, ever since it outgrew the Hanover Trade Fair and set up in its own right.

Mobile internet

The organisers are predicting that over 700,000 people will show up in Hanover after CeBIT is opened by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Hewlett-Packard president Carly Fiorina on Wednesday evening.

Deutsche Messe AG
Firms are pushing technology on the move
They will be expecting to see mobile phones using the new GPRS system, which allows people on the move to stay permanently connected to the internet.

And there will be great interest in Bluetooth, the short-range wireless networking technology which is designed to allow small devices like phones, headsets, personal digital assistants and digital cameras to talk to each other.

Bluetooth, named after a 10th century Viking king who united Denmark and Norway, has been promoted as the technology to kickstart the wireless world, but, so far, few manufacturers have actually released devices on to the market.

From cult to mainstream

This year, there will be plenty of companies making products based on Linux, the free computer operating system assembled by a community of programmers across the internet and seen as a major competitor to Microsoft's Windows.

Linux has gone from a geek cult to a mainstream product and companies like Red Hat, Caldera Systems and SuSE will be showing off their newest versions of the software.

The pride of the open source community is also at the heart of devices like Sharp's new PDA, the Zaurus, and Ericsson's tiny Bluetooth information server, the Blip.

Microsoft-based products will not be in short supply either. The Windows CE operating system is the basis for many new PDAs and Microsoft will be promoting its .NET networked software architecture and the new version of its office tools, Office XP.

Chip giant Intel will be previewing its newest chip: the 64-bit Itanium.

BBC News Online reports from CeBIT from Thursday.

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