Image: Hanover, Germany
Joerg Sarbach  /  AP
A worker fixes an advertising board showing a Samsung mobile device at an exhibition stand at the fair ground in Hanover, Germany, on March 6.
updated 3/6/2006 2:23:49 PM ET 2006-03-06T19:23:49

The annual CeBIT high-tech fair is set to show off a new range of advanced mobile phones, ultra-light laptops, powerful yet compact digital cameras and — maybe — Microsoft's latest secret project.

Established names such as Intel and Samsung will vie for product buzz with newcomers seeking entry into the minds and wallets of consumers at the fair beginning Thursday at the sprawling exhibition center in Hanover.

The show focuses on how companies and countries can expand their business and promote investment, and there also is a growing emphasis on new gadgets for consumers.

"It is the biggest show in Europe, especially for those of us who have operations in Central and Eastern Europe," said Jeremy Roche, chairman of the European Software Association. "It puts us all in a room together and it's a time where we can share views."

While CeBIT remains an industry event at its core, it has branched out in recent years to focus on consumer products from high-powered digital cameras and gaming to the latest in wearable fashion with built-in speakers for portable MP3 players.

The most widely anticipated event is likely to come on opening day, when Microsoft Corp. may unveil its hyped Project Origami. It's expected to be the first version of paperback book-sized computers that will run Microsoft's regular Windows XP operating system. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

Microsoft has not said how or where it will reveal the Origami project, but has said it will be unveiled on March 9 — coinciding with the first day of the CeBIT event. The company will also be showing off Office 12, the latest version of its stalwart suite of office-related productivity software.

But staying true to its corporate roots, CeBIT also will feature dozens, if not hundreds, of displays of technology aimed at business users. Intel Corp., the world's biggest maker of semiconductors, will show off technology that can be used by the health care field.

Other companies, however, will not be going at all. Shoko Yanagisawa, a spokeswoman for Sony Corp., said the company will not be at CeBIT due to a "strategic decision after weighing the costs and returns."

She said CeBIT is primarily a telecommunications event and Sony decided it would be more appropriate if Sony Ericsson, its mobile-phone joint venture with Sweden's LM Ericsson, takes part.

This year's phone lineup is expected to display smaller, more feature-laden cell phones using the 3G standard, which permits them to send data at higher speeds, and feature television on their small screens.

CeBIT will also showcase products that are offbeat as well as new.

Dutch distributor of USB memory sticks, SPECS, will have a lineup of the useful portable storage drives, but at a steep price.

One model, designed by White Lake, is made from 14-carat gold and features not one but five diamonds built-in for a touch of flash. It is expected to retail for 2,950 euro, or around $3,545, and comes in storage sizes of 128 megabytes to one gigabyte.

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