PlayStation 2 gets kicked out of CeBit

Don't play with the merchandise. That's the cardinal rule at CeBit. Sony broke it by letting fairgoers try out its new games. And Microsoft appears to be the whistle-blower.

Less than a week after Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer told visitors to the massive CeBIT exhibition in Germany that he wanted to see a warmer, friendlier Microsoft, his company has become embroiled in a row with Sony over gaming consoles.

Microsoft complained to the show organizers, Hannover Messe AG, that Sony was breaching show rules by letting people play on Sony PlayStation 2 game consoles. Technically, this was right and the Messe was forced to act on the complaint.

Sony approached Microsoft to find a compromise and entered into protracted discussions with the Messe for a deal acceptable for all parties, but none could be found. On Sunday morning Sony started packing up its 27 PS2s. The show, in Hannover, Germany, officially finishes on Wednesday.

Microsoft officials denied that the company had complained to the Messe. But the show organizers confirmed that Richard Roy, vice president, corporate strategy, had complained.

Sony has shown PlayStation consoles for the past three years without any problem, and the Messe said it would not have worried about the situation if no one had complained.

Microsoft has been busy showing the Xbox on its stand with employees demonstrating its console.

Bernd Steinbrink of CeBIT News contributed to this report.