Come To The (Electronics) Fair

A hostess shows the backside of an RFID label with the microchip at the booth of the German METRO Group at the CeBIT computer fair in Hanover, northern Germany,Wednesday, March 8, 2006. The world's largest fair for telecommunications and information technology opens its doors to the public from March 9 through 15, 2006. (AP Photo/Eckehard Schulz)
AP Photo/Eckehard Schulz
The Deutsche Messe Fairgrounds looks more like a medium sized town than a fairground but it takes a mighty big venue to house what organizers are calling not only the world's largest tech gathering but also the world's largest trade fair. In addition to fair buildings and the usual support systems, the grounds host a supermarket and bank. It's a stop on the local subway and it has its own "ZIP code." Nearly half million people from around the world are arriving in Hanover to attend the giant show where more than 6,200 companies from 71 countries are expected to exhibit products.

The show is considerably smaller than it was before 9/11 when it attracted 800,000 visitors. Yet it is starting to make a comeback as the economy and the tech sector start to rebound.

Listen to Larry Magid's interview of Art Paredes, President and CEO of Hanover Fairs USA, Inc.

Traditionally CeBIT is a business-to-business show but it is also starting to encroach on the territory of the Consumer Electronics Show that's held in Las Vegas every January. One new feature this year is the Digital Living Pavilion where exhibitors will show off personal electronics not just to the trade visitors but to the public, who are invited to visit this one pavilion for a $12 admission fee — about a fourth of the cost of visiting the rest the show. Overall about 1,300 exhibitors are showing personal electronics products, according to show spokesperson Anja Brokjans. Mobile phones is an example of a category of products where the distinction between business and personal electronics is starting to blur.

The most highly anticipated announcement is from Microsoft and a host of partners, who are expected to announce the actual products behind the "Origami Project." These are widely expected to be handheld tablet PCs that run the Windows operating system yet are smaller than today's tablet PCs and laptops. It is expected to have wireless connectivity and a touch screen and to turn on instantly. It is expected to cost about $1,000 initially.

By Larry Magid