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Tuesday, 12 March, 2002, 10:28 GMT
Tech firms clutch CeBIT 'life raft'
Nokia is launching new phones at CeBIT
Nokia is showing off its new phones
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By BBC News Online's Ivan Noble
at CeBIT 2002 in Hanover
Hanover's annual CeBIT fair, the gadget lover's paradise, opens to the public on Wednesday.

A lot of exhibitors are hanging on to CeBIT like a life raft

Ernst Raue
Deutsche Messe
Germany's Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, and Microsoft's second-in-command, Steve Ballmer, top the bill at the Tuesday evening opening ceremony.

CeBIT proudly bills itself as the largest trade fair of any kind in the world, dwarfing even the giant Comdex in the US, but it has shrunk since 2001.

The chill wind that blew away the dreams of the technology industry has left fewer exhibitors and the attendance is likely to be down from over 800,000 last year.

Mobile hopes

The big names will still be there, though, and there will be no shortage of determined optimism.

Hi-tech companies and their public relations battalions are rushing to prove they have the ideas and the kit to fuel a return to growth.

Phone display, AFP
The event will not be as big as last year
"A lot of exhibitors are hanging on to the Cebit like a life raft, hoping the fair will give the sector a boost," Ernst Raue, of CeBIT's managers Deutsche Messe, said.

Mobile phone makers are showing the third-generation handsets they need to sell in large numbers if Europe's debt-laden telecoms operators are ever to make back their licence fees.

Undeterred by court challenges, Microsoft is presenting more of the technology it hopes will link mobile users into its .Net plan to dominate business on the internet.

And the Xbox games console makes its European debut on Thursday.

Wireless speed boost

Biometrics firms are pushing security gadgets as the debate continues on how far hi-tech surveillance can aid security.

Open source software firms are showing off the progress they have made in spreading the Linux computer operating system to everything from giant servers to wearable devices.

Wireless network fans wanting to hook up computers without the mess of cables will see new Wi-Fi5 cards, which promise a big speed boost compared with their predecessors.

Chip makers like AMD and Intel are trying to persuade customers that their latest speed monsters are just what are needed to make the best of digital photography and video editing.

Technology preview

And lovers of techno-buzzwords are guaranteed a rich crop of "convergence" devices, disguising the personal computer as an entertainment centre and marrying mobile internet access to probably more devices than will ever make it to market.

CeBIT is a showcase rather than a place to do deals and not every prototype on show really does go on sale.

But it offers a fascinating and hectic preview of the technology upon which thousands of firms are betting their future.

BBC News Online is reporting daily from Hanover on the innovation, the hype, the gadgets and the software.

The BBC's Oliver Woods
"The fair has opened against a background of gloomy news."
BBC News Interactive reports from the CeBIT technology fair in Hanover





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