CeBIT bites

I just returned from a week at CeBIT. I’d hoped to be able to post regularly while I was there, but internet access where I was staying was too expensive to justify anything but critical communications, and my schedule was too packed during show hours to allow for browse-time via the open Wi-Fi base stations I was able to find in the messe (“fair”) halls.

CeBIT may be the largest computer trade show in the world, but the show was, on the whole, incredibly boring. (It’s not over yet, but I glad to be able to bow out early considering the threat of war and of SARS.) There were 10% fewer exhibitors this year than last year, which was in turn had 10% fewer exhibitors than the year before. (I haven’t seen estimates of how much they expected attendance to drop, but last year it dropped a shocking 21% compared to the year before.)

There were some interesting themes at the show…

  • Small, solid-state storage devices (like Sony’s USB 2.0 MicroVaults) and smart storage devices (hard drives with CPUs, like the iPod but with support for video and photos as well as music) were common.
  • Flat panel displays were everywhere, and I saw at least one effective 3D display that didn’t require special glasses. In my opinion, 3D video is inevitable, and I think that 2D displays and video/still cameras will be considered as quaint as mono audio within 10 years.
  • Wireless was a domiant theme, but the difference is that it’s being viewed as integral rather than optional. Intel introduced Centrino, which is chipset that includes a Pentium M (a new Pentium that doesn’t suck nearly as much as a normal Pentium for mobile applications) and wireless support. There were lots of consumer products with wireless support as well.
  • The show reinforced that DVD burners are becoming a commodity. There are still “dash” and “plus” camps, but although “plus” is the way to go if you have to pick one (given the format’s minor technical advantages and Microsoft’s support), “risk-free” multi-format drives will be available inexpensively from many vendors soon.
  • Finally, the more I consider it, the more I think that Tablet PCs are going to rule the earth. If Apple doesn’t have one of these in the pipeline now, they’re in trouble.

Other than that, gimmicks. PowerBook G4 clones (running Windows, of course), Windows CE for Automotive, the occasional booth featuring hot chicks dancing suggestively in the name of boring technology, etc. It’s a big show and I couldn’t have seen it all, though, so please comment if you were there and saw something interesting.