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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 12 March, 2003, 11:26 GMT
Tech slump coming to an end
By Ivan Noble and Mark Ward
BBC News Online technology staff in Hanover

The worst is over for the slump-stricken technology industry, politicians and business leaders opening the giant CeBIT technology fair said in Hanover.

Chanceller Schoroeder with Nokia chairman Jorma Ollila
Germany's Chancellor Schroeder opens CeBIT
"CeBIT shows that following a necessary and difficult period of adaptation, the IT industry will return to a path of growth," said German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at the opening ceremony.

Other industry leaders spoke of zero per cent growth in Germany's technology industry in 2003 following the first year of negative growth in history.

Nokia chairman Jorma Ollila was upbeat about the prospects for growth in international mobile phone markets.

End self-criticism

He said that having passed one billion, the number of mobile phone subscribers in the world would double to two billion by the end of the decade, pointing to China, India, Russia and Brazil as markets with huge growth potential.

"Everyone has the potential to be a mobile consumer. Mobility is the next global megatrend," he said.

"We must put an end to the self-defeating criticism in our industry," he added.

Success was not guaranteed and technology companies had plenty of work to do, he said.

Largest trade fair

It was important not to repeat the mistake of trying to sell technology instead of services.

"Customers are not interested in buying three-letter acronyms such as MMS but they are interested in buying picture messaging or mobile messaging.

"It's always customers who decide which services take off," he said.

CeBIT runs until 19 March at the trade fair grounds in Hanover.

The fair organisers expect over 600,000 visitors this year, down from the record 750,000 two years ago but still large enough to make it the biggest trade fair of any kind in the world.

Though many of the products on show this year are refinements rather than out and out innovation, the fair still promises to be a gadget lover's heaven, with the latest mobile phones, digital cameras and home entertainment networking gear on show.

The BBC's Dominic Di Natale
"Companies are bending over backwards to sell gadgets"

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