Early birds at CeBIT build digital homes

CeBIT: Major IT players are using this year's CeBIT show to promote their place in the Digital Home, while Intel is showing off the gaming potential of its latest chips

The German city of Hannover simmered with expectation on Tuesday ahead of CeBIT 2004. As the world's largest IT and telecommunications trade show, CeBIT is both a red-letter date in the technology industry's calendar and a good chance to take the industry's health.

Early signs had  been worrying, with attendance tipped to fall by as much as 10 percent to as few as 500,000 visitors over the week of the show. The show doesn't officially launch until Thursday, but as exhibitors raced to complete the construction of their stands and confirm their press-conference plans, the mood on the show floor was generally upbeat.

Walking the show floor, it's already clear that several large companies are pushing the concept of convergence and the digital home. JVC is devoting a large chunk of its stand to displays that show how plasma screens, DVD recorders and players, digital audio systems and PCs can have a place in nearly every room of the house -- from kitchen table to home office.

Fujitsu-Siemens is taking this concept even further -- setting up a display promoting the merits of a TFT flat-screen in a child's play room. Other areas of the Fujitsu-Siemens stand also push its Scaleo multimedia PC as a centrepiece to a living room.

Over at Intel's territory, the chipmaker is devoting much of its energy to pushing its semiconductors as the fulcrum of the 'digital home', or even the 'digital life'. Gaming is playing a key role in Intel's pitch, with several PCs running its Pentium 4 Extreme Edition chip.

"They're running at just 38 degrees [Celsius], which is good, as the Extreme Edition is a bit tasty," one company insider told ZDNet UK. "We're showing off the power of the Extreme Edition for gaming". Intel has also positioned a large BMW on its stand. The car is currently wrapped up, but will probably be used to demonstrate automotive technology.

"I guess there's a lot of PCs inside it that are based on Intel chips," our source coyly speculated.

This year there will be the usual wide range of enterprise and consumer kit on show, from Foundry Network's new10-Gigabit Ethernet switches to the latest cool handheld from Asus, the MyPal A730 Pocket PC. Siemens, Sony Ericsson, Nokia and Sharp will all demonstrate their latest mobile phones, although some of these were shown at the 3GSM show last month. Philips is also sure to attract plenty of attention with a fluid-based digital camera lens that can focus an image in the same way as the lens in a human eye.