CEBIT: Low-cost PCs, Java joftware, 'Net devices set to debut

With 600,000 visitors expected to turn up at the CeBIT computer trade show this week in Hanover, Germany, vendors aren't about to miss out on the opportunity to show their wares to the technology-hungry crowd. Around 7,200 exhibitors from over 60 countries will launch, demonstrate and pump their products, many based on Internet technologies. As with every year, the mammoth trade show will be the showcase for technologies as diverse as handheld PCs, applications software, online services, notebook and desktop PCs and telecommunications services

With 600,000 visitors expected to turn up at the CeBIT computer trade show this week in Hanover, Germany, vendors aren't about to miss out on the opportunity to show their wares to the technology-hungry crowd.

At the show, which runs from March 19 to 25, around 7,200 exhibitors from over 60 countries will launch, demonstrate and pump their products, many based on Internet technologies. As with every year, the mammoth trade show will be the showcase for technologies as diverse as handheld PCs, applications software, online services, notebook and desktop PCs and telecommunications services from new entrants and established carriers.

As far as desktop and notebook PCs are concerned, all the usual suspects, including Compaq and Hewlett-Packard, will be showing off recently released products, if not unveiling new ones.

Taiwan's Acer Group plans to launch its AcerPower 5000NW series of network-ready desktops, which will feature built-in remote manageability and administration software aimed at lowering the total cost of ownership. The small-sized desktops will be based on Intel 's Pentium MMX processors, running at speeds of up to 266MHz, or on Advanced Micro Devices' K6 chip, the company said.

Another Taiwanese vendor, First International Computer (FIC), will show its sub-US$1,000 Sahara Databook managed PC featuring a 233MHz Pentium II, while Italian company Olivetti Computers Worldwide SpA will demonstrate some of its recently-launched desktop machines. Germany's own Siemens Nixdorf Informationssysteme AG (SNI) will also unveil a new professional desktop system, featuring an integrated chip card reader, the company said.

On the notebook front, Fujitsu will demonstrate its range of LifeBook notebooks, after announcing last week that it has signed up a new German distributor, RFI Elektronik GmbH, to sell the product locally.

PC's won't be the only devices taking center stage at CeBIT.

Compaq will launch a handheld computer based on Microsoft 's Windows CE 2.0 operating system. The system will be Compaq's first Windows CE machine to be launched in Europe, said a spokesman at an event in London last month.

Philips Electronics NV, Casio Computer Co. Ltd. and HP will all show off their existing CE machines at the show.

Philips will also launch a Web phone that will allow users to surf the Internet and make phone calls from one console. The product was already unveiled in the US at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

Northern Telecommunications Inc.'s French subsidiary, Matra Communication, will also demonstrate a screen phone offering Internet access, while Grundig AG of Germany will unveil its WebBox, a set-top box that allows users to get on the Internet via television set. Meanwhile, SNI plans jump into the consumer Internet fray with its PCTV, which will let users do everything from sending e-mail using a smart card and ordering products, to communicating over a videophone or viewing commercials.

Showing that Internet access can come from almost anywhere these days no matter how small the device, Alcatel Alsthom SA will demonstrate a global system for mobile communications (GSM) cell phone offering access to certain Web content, news and e-mail via a special small-footprint browser from Unwired Planet Inc.

Philips will also demonstrate a handheld cellular phone offering Internet access, while Nokia Corp. will show off its combination cell phone-fax machine-Internet devices, the Nokia 9000i.

Microsoft's new Palm PC operating system for handheld personal digital assistants (PDAs) will get a European boost as the company releases the German, French, Italian and Spanish version of the operating system, while several vendors are expected to show Palm PC-based PDAs.

Rival 3Com Corp. will demonstrate its shipping Palm Pilot and announce other new products in this area at the show, the company said.

When it comes to large-scale enterprise software applications, CeBIT has always been a showcase for German software-power SAP AG.

The focus of SAP's exhibit this year will be on release 4.0 of its enterprise resource planning software suite R/3. The new version of the package will allow selective upgrades of particular R/3 components and will offer features such as supply chain management functions. The newest release of the company's signature products will also incorporate Java and technology such as the component-object model (COM) and distributed component object model (DCOM). At the show SAP and IBM will team up to release a Java-based thin client -- tailored for the IBM network computer -- that allows for access to R/3, company officials said late last month.

The Baan Co. can also be expected to present its new enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, Bann Series, which, like the new SAP release, is components-based, allowing users to upgrade selected pieces instead of doing a complete upgrade.

Software AG will unveil its first new product in nearly a decade. Dubbed Bolero, the software was unveiled to journalists last month. Bolero is designed to help businesses create electronic-commerce applications based on the Java platform, without having to actually write code in the Java language. Bolero components run on all hardware platforms that use the Java Virtual Machine (JVM), the company said.

System Software Associates, a relatively small player in the business applications market, will show off its BPCS Client/Server Version 6.0 of its customizable client-side server software, according to a company statement.

Many other companies will use CeBIT as a chance to outline their next corporate strategy moves.

America Online Inc. and its German partner Bertelsmann AG will define their joint strategy in Europe now that the company is near to officially acquiring the online service division of CompuServe Inc., a spokesman for CompuServe Europe said. CompuServe itself will hold a press conference to detail its next moves in the highly-competitive European online services and Internet access markets.

Intel is holding a press conference to outline its plans for microprocessors for 2000 and beyond, while Lucent Technologies Inc. will outline its strategic goals in Europe, the companies said.

Olivetti Computers Worldwide will give details of a server initiative with Microsoft and a general overview of where the company is heading in the next year. Meanwhile, 3Com and Siemens AG will demonstrate the first fruits of a joint initiative to develop voice-over-LAN solutions.

CeBIT organiser Deutsche Messe AG said today that about 100,000 visitors will travel to Hanover from abroad to visit the 7,200 companies, 2,724 of which come from outside of Germany. The largest single group of exhibitors comes from Taiwan (502 firms), the U.S. (411), U.K. (285), followed by the Netherlands, France and Switzerland.

Exhibits at CeBIT are grouped into the following categories: information technology, network computing, computer-integrated manufacturing/automatic data capture, software, consulting and services, telecommunications, office automation, bank technology, security equipment/card technology, research and technology transfer.

Special emphasis will be placed on Latin America this year, with CeBIT hosting a two-day event to foster cooperation between European and Latin American businesses, under the aegis of the EC's ALINVEST Program (America Latina).

Also debuting this year is the new hall 13 - the largest single-span exhibition hall in Europe - where PC manufacturers will display their products.

Deutsche Messe can be reached online at http://www.messe.de/

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