Hanover's CeBIT has been one of the IT world's top trade fairs for the last 20 years, but other cities and the fast-paced world of technology are making the 2006 event's life even more difficult than usual.
CeBIT needs to find consistency in the windy world of electronics
CeBIT's organizers should have plenty to celebrate this year as the fair reaches its 20th anniversary. But the directors can be forgiven for not opening the champagne after a recent spat of press reports questioning the exhibition's international importance as big-name companies choose not to attend the event.
Most of the pressure on Deutsche Messe, the company that operates CeBIT, is coming from a lack of companies willing to roll out new products in Hanover and fair organizers in rival cities.
Apple's iPod won't be making an appearance at CeBIT
Apple introduces its products exclusively at its own US-based Macworld, while network giant Cisco and the software maker Oracle also present their innovations in their own forums -- and none of the companies decided to rent out a stand at CeBIT.
Domestically, Berlin's International Consumer Electronics Fair (IFA), which mainly plays host to entertainment electronics, switched to an annual schedule in 2006 to give exhibitors the opportunity to show their products more often, breaking its long-standing tradition of holding events only once every two years.
Co n verge n ce causes fair focus problems
As electronics continue their penetration into all areas of daily life, the line between computer and entertainment technology blurs, making it difficult for CeBIT, a trade fair aimed at both retail users and the IT elite, to find its focus.
Displaying the massive influence of personal electronics, CeBIT's 2006 "digital living" showcase, which will feature television, game consoles, MP3 players and digital cameras, doubles back onto IFA's territory, leaving observers to wonder what differentiates one fair from the other.
Samsung exhibited the world's largest LCD TV at CeBIT 2005
The electronic convergence is one reason Seung Kak Kang, head of Samsung's German operations, called for a merging of the two fairs into a single technology and electronics mega event.
"There is not always time between CeBIT and IFA to develop new, exciting products," he told the February edition of impulse magazine. "That's why it might make sense if the two would merge."
Others would prefer to keep the two events -- and their focuses -- separate. An online survey conducted by ComputerWoche magazine showed nearly 60 percent of its surveyed readers said they would prefer CeBIT concentrate on information technology and leave consumer electronics, including "digital living" to other venues.
CeBIT still a n importa n t player
Regardless of how the fair develops over the next 20 years, it still remains a central event many companies choose not to miss.
"The exhibition is very, very important for us," said Microsoft's Frank Mihm-Gebauer.
He added Microsoft would only consider withdrawing from CeBIT "if only 50,000 visitors came and only 500 came to our stand."
Organizers', however, expect 6,300 exhibitors to fill over 300,000 square meters (3,229,173 square feet) at the March 9 to March 15 event.