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CEBIT preview: cutting ties with past as it goes mobile

The annual CEBIT trade show, which kicks off in Hanover on 12 March, will be missing several familiar faces. Even Microsoft will not occupy its usual dominant position.

However, the rationalisation that has deposed Microsoft from its role as gatekeeper is more than made up for by its billing in the speaker programme. Chief executive officer Steve Ballmer's keynote address, for example, is listed before German chancellor Gerhard Schröder's opening ceremony speech.

Ballmer will be there to talk about Microsoft's Mira wireless tablet-cum-remote control, according to company sources.

Among Mira's admirers is National Semiconductor, which promises announcements around the product. Philips Electronics is cautious about the new technology, but plans to show a detachable PC monitor that users can remove from its cradle and carry around while continuing their work over an IEEE 802.11b wireless connection.

Ballmer will also speak about Microsoft's mobility division and the X-Box game console. The company will be displaying devices based on its recently announced Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition and Windows Powered Smartphone software suites, both of which are based on its Windows CE 3.0 operating system.

The company also promises "a major carrier announcement". That could involve mmO2 PLC, the mobile phone operator recently spun out from British Telecom. Mmo2 is working on the XDA, a combined mobile phone and PDA running the Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition software.

For those seeking escape from the wall-to-wall Microsoft coverage, Hitachi will be presenting a variety of wearable Internet appliances complete with visor displays which offer instant Net access while "on the move, relaxing at home or in the office," the company said.

Alongside its connected clothing, Hitachi will also be presenting a device without buttons - a prototype mobile terminal it calls Waterscape. This portable multimedia display can show movie clips or photographs, play music and read news articles or e-mail. It senses its orientation and is controlled by tilting or turning.

On the business side, Hitachi will be showing software for verifying the integrity of Web sites, its IPv6 Gigabit Router range, and storage networking systems for the broadcasting industry and for disaster recovery in S/390 environments.

SAP is segmenting its market: the company's main stand will feature CRM and supply chain management (SCM) software systems and enterprise portals for businesses; other stands will be dedicated to the public sector and to financial service providers.

Software from SAP will also be on show at a Siemens stand, as part of a demonstration of how to design business processes for mobile workers, particularly in financial services companies.

Siemens' Information and Communication Networks division will be showing two families of equipment for consolidating multiple services on broadband and optical IP networks: Surpass, for carrier customers, and HiPath for the enterprise.

Next door, the Information and Communication Mobile division will be demonstrating embedded GPRS modules.

On the Fujitsu Siemens stand the Secure WLAN Mobility exhibit is sure to attract plenty of drive-by hackers hoping to disprove the company's claim that they have the products and protocols to ensure the security of wireless LANs.

The company will also be using the WLAN to demonstrate the multimedia streaming capabilities of its first PDA running Microsoft's Pocket PC 2002 software.

Elsewhere on the stand, Fujitsu Siemens will show its Primergy BX300, 300 dual-processor Intel servers packed into a single rack-mount cabinet for medium-size businesses that have outgrown their small wiring closets.

It will also show the Activy Media Centre, a combined digital video recorder and Internet appliance with video on demand, interactive television and e-mail access for the consumer market. Fujitsu-Siemens will show how the Activy can be hitched up to a television, a plasma screen or even a projector: Staring at the wall will never be the same again.

Toshiba will be showing yet another Pocket PC 2002 PDA. The e570 is targeted exclusively at business users. The company will also highlight Bluetooth for the home and the office; its first notebook with a mobile GeForce4 GO graphics processor; and the Portege 2000, which Toshiba says is the slimmest notebook in the world.

IBM will show everything from its WatchPad prototype wristwatch-PDA up to its autonomic computing project. This is based on the premise that the complexity and scope of IT infrastructure in the next ten years will increase exponentially, requiring systems able to monitor, maintain and repair themselves.

Compaq also plans demonstrations in all sizes, from its tiny iPaq 3870 - a PDA with 64Mbytes of RAM, a Bluetooth interface and security and back-office integration software built in -- up to its XXL grid computing exhibit. This is "a worldwide cluster solution for high-performance technical computing," according to a company statement. In between are wireless networks in all shapes and sizes and - still in the showcases but not in the stores - a demonstration of Marvel, its next-generation Alpha processors.

Hewlett-Packard will show products for always-on Internet infrastructures, mobility, digital convergence and digital imaging, it said. CEBIT will be the first public presentation of the latest addition to HP's midrange server family, the Utility Data Centre. The company will also show other products due for launch this year, including IA-32 servers, new HP Omnibook laptops, its latest Jornada PDAs and a digital camera that allows users to send photographs to all sorts of places at the push of a button.

Advanced Micro Devices is one of the few companies that has nothing to say about wireless networking - but it will be showing its Hammer 64-bit processor and talking about HyperTransport bus technology.

Cisco Systems will be highlighting broadband access technologies including DSL, cable, Long Range Ethernet (LRE) and Metro Ethernet. With LRE over copper and WLAN technology, service providers can reach a new market: mobile consumers, Cisco says. The combination is in use in airports, coffee bars and hotels.

Lucent Technologies is focused on helping service providers reduce network complexity, infrastructure costs and operating costs, with live demonstrations of broadband access, intelligent packet networks, and convergence networks, among others.

Samsung Electronics will be showing a number of mobile communications products at CEBIT, some of them for the first time in public, it says.

Finally, Sun Microsystems is also expected to show some updates to its workstation line.

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