Yes it’s that time of year again. For everyone in Europe who works in the IT and electronics industries, March marks one of the major industry events in the region; CeBIT was held in the huge Deutsche Messe AG exhibition centre in Hanover, Germany (the world’s largest).

I spent a few days at CeBIT this year–so how was it? It was definitely good to have the opportunity to meet people with questions directly rather than using Web forms and e-mail; open source firms showed good presence along with those representing banking, security, and digital imaging. The absence of some big names was a little disappointing, however. The shift of focus towards a German audience was quite apparent with 16 percent more visitors being from Germany than last year.

Some international presence in CeBIT seemed to be lacking, while there was more locally targeted and specialist clients. There was still an abundance of international stands with over 6000 exhibitors from 77 countries; some of those who were present seemed to be heavily targeting the German market with literature and presentations in German language only. I wonder if this is due to the other CeBIT expos being held internationally this year: CeBIT Australia is being held in Sydney from the 1st to 3rd May, CeBIT Bilisim Eurasia from the 2nd to the 7th of October in Istanbul; and then CeBIT Asia from the 10th to the 13th of October in Shanghai. If this is the case, however, what coverage does the rest of Europe have? Maybe we need to start visiting CES in Las Vegas instead?

Navigation and communication took a major chunk of floor space with exhibitors like Samsung, Sony Ericsson, O2, Vodafone, T-Mobile, and Freenet all pulling out the stops with huge stands, swarms of promo girls, and live technology demonstrations. In the IT sectors, major exhibitors such as Intel, AMD, and ATI had sizeable promotional stalls with plenty of freebies (the usual array of pens, lanyards, candy, and cheap t-shirts) and interactive activities in an attempt to draw more attention to their brand, rather than any particular product or service. As mentioned before notable absences in the line-up included firms such as Apple (although I don’t think they have ever attended), HP, Lenovo, and Nvidia. Seeing as competition between Nvidia and ATI is always hot, it was surprising that they took the decision not to have their own stand; instead Nvidia made use of authorised partners and three meeting rooms in the business centre.

It seems that while consumer/end user targeted content is slightly down compared to earlier shows, business-to-business trade is booming. Official sources claim that contracts of over €5 billion have been exchanged within the first few days of this year’s show. There was a large Asian presence, particularly in the area of USB memory. One particular product that caught my eye was the ‘Intelligent Drive Mini’ from pqi; it’s about the size of a fingernail and can hold up to 2 GB. To allow such a small size rather than using a full USB plug, the devices use a slide-out PCB contact which slots into a normal USB socket.

I don’t know if many people used the downloadable mobile fair planner (Blackberry, java phones etc)? The map was pretty helpful while traversing the park although company listings were a little misleading. I traipsed from one end of the park to the other in an attempt to find some of them. Once I had arrived at the stand listed as Symantec in the mobile planner, I found it was actually run by NetApp. A small Symantec sticker was the only sign that this was the correct stand, but when I asked an assistant, he said that there weren’t actually any representatives of Symantec present. A little annoying really; if there were no Symantec people on the stand, then they shouldn’t have been listed under Symantec!

Overall, I would say that the CeBIT show is still an important industry event for Europe, although this year it seems to have struggled to pull in some major players, which left it feeling a little lacking. I wonder whether this will change next year. Are corporations more eager to spend marketing budgets on directly targeted channels rather than expensive trade shows? Maybe some simply didn’t have anything new to show off?