Mirroring the rise in information technology spending, organizers of this year's CeBIT trade show are forecasting more visitors and exhibitors jostling for a sneak peek at the next wave of technology.
After several years of economic gloom, the world's largest tech fair opens Thursday, buoyed by the market potential of new technology combining telephones, computers and the Internet as well as companies saying they will spend more.
More than 510,000 visitors are expected at the weeklong event, which boasts 27 hangar-sized exhibit halls that showcase everything from Microsoft Corp.'s digital home to a 300-player tournament with popular games like "FIFA Soccer 2005" and "Warcraft 3" where the winner takes home euro150,000 (US$198,000).
CeBIT also is the chance to see how contemporary technology is changing the home of today into that of the future.
As technology applications move from desktop PCs and laptops to refrigerators, microwaves and even tennis shoes — witness the new Adidas-1 sneakers that boast a processor that does 5 million calculations a second — CeBIT 2005 will showcase how consumers can make the most of a digital lifestyle.
"At CeBIT itself there is an emphasis on the merging of IT and telecoms both in next-generation networks and in the mobile sector and that is always good for new, innovative development," said Paul Budde, an analyst from Australia.
He added that companies, including telecoms, phone makers and others will use the industry event to unveil new products.
Several exhibitors will focus on the blending of home computers with televisions to form, in part, digitally connected home entertainment systems that will let consumers record favorite TV shows on a hard drive, pull up detailed programming listings and manage a library of MP3s all in one set-top box the size of a VCR or DVD player, if not smaller.
Another key aspect is the convergence in the communications industry.
Sure to be of interest among gadget watchers and tech gurus is the prevalence of new Voice over Internet Protocol devices, which let users make telephone calls using the Internet, often at a vastly cheaper cost than with normal providers.
VoIP technology shifts calls away from wires and switches, instead using computers and broadband connections to convert sounds into data and transmit them via the Internet. In many cases, VoIP subscribers use conventional phones connected to a special box and a high-speed connection to make Internet calls.
Others are set to offer wireless mobile phones with Skype Technologies SA's software, including handset makers like Siemens AG and Motorola Corp.
The basic Skype program, offered as a free download over the Internet, allows people to use their computers as telephones to call others equipped with Skype software. Another version, called SkypeOut, lets Skype users call regular phones.
For the industry, several business executives plan to gather for a technology summit that will focus on how globalization and outsourcing is affecting markets.
The conference, featuring Stuart Cohen, chief executive of OSDL, Niklas Zennstroem, CEO and co-founder of Skype, and Viviane Reding, the commissioner for information society and media of the European Commission, will also look at how the emergence of India and China will affect technology growth.