Many suppliers at CeBIT will be showcasing integration products - from combining voice and data, to easing the exchange of information to seamless mobile communication
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"Integrated innovation" is the main theme of Microsoft's approach to CeBIT.
The company will be showcasing numerous applications that interoperate seamlessly to help raise employee productivity. Microsoft will be exhibiting new means of data exchange within the Microsoft Office suite to help illustrate this.
"The most frequent demands from corporate customers involve the need for innovative, integrated and flexible platforms. Unified access to the internet, intranets, portals and databases through a single user interface promises significant cost advantages and market benefits," a Microsoft spokeswoman said.
Microsoft's mobile products will build on its previous CeBIT shows, where mobile Tablet devices with similar power to a PC have been showcased.
IBM is using CeBIT to continue pushing its on-demand computing initiative - its version of utility computing - as well as a series of industry-specific technologies, in areas such as retail, financial services, the public sector and telecoms.
The company will also be revealing the latest updates to its product portfolio, including product lifecycle management, Websphere middleware, DB2, Lotus and Tivoli.
IBM will be showcasing blue-sky technology including advanced natural language under- standing for speech technology and Webfountain, a web-scale data search and analysis platform that extracts trends, patterns and relationships from unstructured data.
SAP will use CeBIT to reveal details about the latest version of its integration software package, Netweaver 2004, which has been in development for the past year.
Michael Kleinemeier, SAP's president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said, "Our CeBIT motto, 'experience integration', will be mirrored by the announcements we are planning. One major focus will be on the new version of SAP Netweaver.
"This integration and application platform at the heart of SAP's future strategy will now be delivered as one complete product with a synchronised stack of all technology components and new functional enhancements."
The company will also update delegates on the latest developments in its MySAP enterprise resource planning software and specific applications for the public sector and small and medium-sized businesses, Kleinemeier said.
"SMEs face similar challenges to large companies, such as the need to increase business performance to keep up with the competition and improve their collaboration with customers, distributors, partners, suppliers, parent companies and subsidiaries. Yet they have a special need for affordable and easy-to-implement solutions and professional partners to support them."
Jorma Ollila, Nokia chairman and chief executive, said his company would use CeBIT to develop the theme of convergence. "We are moving towards two billion mobile subscribers," he said.
"In 1999, we were talking about a mobile information society involving seamless services built around technologies such as GSM, GPRS, Multimedia Messaging Service, 3G, wireless Lans, Bluetooth and digital subscriber line (DSL).
"To reach two billion subscribers we need improved standardisation and interoperability, revenue sharing among operators and content providers and digital rights management. In addition, we need the co-existence of [rival] brands."
Ollila believes that the industry has to pull together to convince users it has learned from the mistakes of previous poorly marketed campaigns for mobile data, particularly Wap, so that it can build on the modest successes already seen in the take-up of GPRS. This success will help the industry reach the next goal: the widespread roll-out of 3G.
3G handsets from Nokia will be heavily promoted at CeBIT, along with data services that can be integrated into corporate private branch exchanges and mail servers to give users easy access to e-mail, faxes and voicemail.
Lucent Technologies will demonstrate its plans for enabling the convergence of networks - broadband, voice, data and wireless - and delivering communications across any application, any device and any platform.
Pat Russo, chairman and chief executive at Lucent Technologies, summed up what the networks industry is trying to get across to users. "A key focus for CeBIT this year is how to evolve today's networks so that service providers can deliver the services customers want in a cost-effective way," she said.
"The answer to that question is convergence, but a much broader understanding than we had considered in the past. Today it has to encompass networks, technologies and services."
Cisco's main theme at CeBIT will be about creating the "intelligent information network, including driving greater intelligence into our core platforms", a company spokesman said.
"The network itself needs to evolve to address both today's, and the future network application requirements of SMEs and large enterprises," he added.
Security will be a major area covered by Cisco at the show, following its recent alliance with IBM to closely integrate its network products with the network management capabilities of Big Blue's software suite. Cisco's "self-defending network" will be one feature on its stand.
3Com, like other networking companies, will be launching products at CeBIT to address the need of users to move to "hybrid" networks as a step towards full IP-based networking. This will allow users to take advantage of increased productivity and cost savings.
Rob Coyne, 3Com's UK manager, said, "An increasing number of enterprise customers will move from fragmented to hybrid networks in 2004.
"Fragmented networks have disparate applications and infrastructure, security appliances that are not consolidated to offer easy and secure management and users limited by the reach of wires.
"Hybrid networks include a mixture of IP-based convergence and legacy systems in a secure multi-site and mobile environment."
Coyne said there were three main drivers for hybrid solutions: converged voice/data solutions have reached maturity in terms of quality, availability and reliability; the maintenance costs of legacy systems can be reduced by new IP-based systems; and the complexity of fragmented applications and complicated infra-structures are limiting enterprises from achieving new business objectives.
PeopleSoft will update users on its integration with ERP supplier JD Edwards, which it bought last year.
The company will also announce tailored applications with specific functionality for manufacturers, in particular the automotive industry and medium-sized companies, as well as updates to its PeopleSoft World product line.