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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 March, 2004, 13:11 GMT
Showcase for future of mobiles
Sony boss Kunitake Ando and Qrio, AP
Sony also showed off the Qrio robot
The Cebit technology fair has officially got under way with messages of hope from both the business and technology worlds.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Europe was looking to the technology industry to help drive innovation and fuel economic growth.

Sony President Kunitake Ando said 2004 would be the start of a new era for the hi-tech industry.

He said big changes were due as computer technology, mobile phones and consumer electronics all start to converge.

Rosy future

Forecasts reveal that, following a tough few years, the global phone and computer industries look set to grow by 4.3% this year and perhaps by as much as 6% in 2005.

Nokia 7610
Nokia phone can be a life recorder
Many firms are pinning hopes for better times on extras for mobile phones and new services for handsets, including long-awaited third-generation mobile systems, that were much in evidence during Cebit's opening hours.

T-Mobile said it would be launching 3G services in Germany, Britain and Austria in May.

Vodafone's German head Juergen von Kuczkowski said it would launch its own 3G service later this year once handsets with good battery life and looks comparable to existing phones were available.

Vodafone launched a 3G data service across Europe in February which is now available in more than 300 cities.

Third-generation services will also start to be offered by mm02 in Germany in April and Dutch phone firm KPN said it would start its service in June. Both will be data, rather than voice, services.

Mobile music

There were also announcements about new services for existing mobile phone networks.

One of the biggest was made by Sony which is about to launch a personal radio system across Europe.

Security guards at Cebit, AP
Technology for everyone at Cebit
Sony said it had been talking to "almost all" European mobile phone firms about the system which will debut in Finland on the TeliaSonera network in April.

The personal radio system will be a music streaming system that users can tailor to their tastes.

Cebit also featured a few new gadgets.

Nokia introduced its first megapixel camera phone, the 7610, that should be on sale in the second quarter of 2004.

The 7610 is also among the first phones to feature Nokia's newly announced Lifeblog software that allows people to collect images, messages and video clips into an annotated diary.

The chronological record is kept on the phone and a PC.

Nokia also showed off a gadget called the Image Frame that is fitted with a phone receiver that can hold 80 images it shows as a slideshow.

Also released at the show by NEC was the n400i handset that has been built especially for the European iMode market.

The n400i can shoot and show video clips and will be available on three European iMode networks in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany soon.

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