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Business

CeBIT Rediscovers Consumers

Never before have so many multi-media gadgets and applications been on show at the CeBIT computer fair as this year. Aimed at professional and home users, they can be used in the office, at home or when moving about.

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Flat screens will become the standard in the future.

According to Georg Schnurer of the computer magazine c't, it's a trend that can't be overlooked: The consumer, the private person, the user is central again.

"The companies have realized that it’s not enough to present technical innovations," Schnurer said. "They have to learn to interest customers in them. They need to offer functions people want, and in a way customers can use them."

It's a view shared by Patrik Afschar, spokesman for LG Electronics from South Korea.

"End users are absolutely the focus, for example with cell phones, entertainment electronics, DVD recorders," he said.

LG Electronics claims fifth place in the world with mobiles and is stepping up its efforts to win German customers.

Motorola A820 UMTS Handy

The tri-band Motorola A820 has an integrated web-cam, top, a TFT color display, is equipped with a MP3-player and capable to receive and display Audio- and Videostreams.

"We're presenting two new models precisely targeted at consumers," Afschar said. "One contains a 1.2 mega-pixel camera, which is very high resolution, and another one can

work like a video camera."

The resolution is four times as high as mobiles now selling. The quality is as great as the first generation of purely digital cameras. But mobiles can do a lot of other things as well now, according to Afschar.

"It’s called a camcorder phone, whose display can be turned at a right angle to the rest of it so that it looks like a video camera," he said. "It can shoot video footage for up to 10 minutes."

Phones to write with

At the Siemens stand, Lothar Marmier demonstrated what he called a “pen-phone” to a curious crowd around him. It’s a ballpoint pen that also works as a phone.

"It’s a triple band GSM phone in the form of a pen," Marmier explained, adding that it also recognizes handwriting. "You don’t have to key phone numbers in any more, they’re written."

Galerie Cebit 2004 Penphone

The Siemens "penphone" is still just a prototype.

Pressing a button connects you with the number written. And those too lazy to write the numbers can tell them to the phone to record. But the miracle thing is not for sale yet -- Siemens just wanted to show what future mobiles might be able to do.

The mobile David Williams was touting a few meters on will be in the shops in the next quarter. Poor Williams is not to be envied – he spends the whole fair day treading the peddles of a bicycle.

"This is the new outdoor phone by Siemens, connected to a Bikometer," he said. "That’s a very practical clamp for the bike. Usually I’ve got the mobile in my trouser pocket or back pack and I don’t get to it fast enough to answer it. This is a good place for it because I can attach a headset the moment it rings."

The bikometer’s color display on the handle bars also acts as a speedometer that can show the usual kinds of information like speed, average speed, distance ridden and so on. The entire route can be recorded and sent off to friends by e-mail, who can then also ride it without getting lost. Is it going to be a sales hit? Time will tell.

Going flat screen

Flat screens on the other hand are already sales hits, on both computers or TV sets fixed to the living room wall. The number of suppliers seems limitless, the screen diagonals range from a few centimeters or inches to just under two meters (6.5 feet). It all depends on how much consumers can afford.

Galerie: Cebit 2004

A woman adjusts flatscreens at the stand of Korean company LG Electronics.

"There are two trends in flat displays," said Georg Schnurer. "In computers the flat screen is displacing valves, which are practically gone, and given the way prices are moving you wouldn’t recommend valves in new purchases. You should get in early with this even as a private user. The other trend in home electronics is the digital living room, including the viewing equipment. Resolutions are getting higher. I expect flickering images to be gone soon. You get that a lot better with a flat display than a valve." " But the price collapses of recent months will probably end soon because producers can no longer keep up with demand, he said.

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