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CeBIT 2006: Action at the Extremes

There’s simply nothing ordinary about CeBIT—it’s huge in every dimension. By the time it wraps up on Wednesday, March 15, more than 400,000 visitors will have made their way to the weeklong show in Hannover, Germany. Just like at CES or NAB, companies exhibiting at CeBIT try to outdo one another with their announcements. The difference between the announcements made at the consumer electronics or broadcast technology shows is that CeBIT is so big it lacks focus, despite an attempt on the part of the organizers to provide show attendees some structure.

This year’s CeBIT, with its theme "Digital Solutions for Work and Life," filled at least five halls and several special pavilions. The show included imaging and video (everything you need for photography, photo printers, image scanners, TV and transmission systems, display screens, home LCD projectors, and PVRs all laid out in sumptuous living rooms), personal storage systems (flash cards and mini-hard drives), personal computing (home systems, personal laptops, PDAs, document printers, DVD burners, small office equipment, non-aligned software, and security), SOHO and home networking products and services (such as Wi-Fi, HomePlug, Bluetooth, and home automation), mobile communications (personal 2.5G and 3G handsets and services, consumer DECT, and consumer GPS), mobile electronics (MP3, audio, satellite radio, personal electronics, and specialty mobile "gadgets"), and gaming technology and entertainment software (game boxes, software, online, components and accessories, and pre-recorded DVDs). What did we leave out? What part of work or life (presumably "life outside of work") today isn’t digital?

The most exciting new products that caught the most attention are on opposite ends of the portability spectrum.

Unveiling Origami
No, not the Japanese art of paper folding. For those who were hiding out on a tropical island for the past year and missed the big news, Origami is Intel and Microsoft’s code name for the newest Windows-based communications platform: the Ultra Mobile Personal Computer (UMPC). Officially unveiled at CeBIT, the UMPC is small (1 inch/2.54 cm thick with a seven-inch/17.8 cm screen) and very lightweight (less than two pounds/978 grams). How do you spell portable? The UMPCs run a Tablet PC Edition of Windows XP plus Windows Touch Pack, which permits users to interface with the unit through touch screen and stylus functions. One of the five applications with which these devices are launching is a version of Windows Media Player nicknamed "Brilliant Black." Tests with demo models in the Samsung booth (the Samsung model is called Q1 and weighs 778 gms) didn’t reveal anything unusual under highly controlled conditions, but at 800x600, the screen resolution was disappointing.

The developer/early adopter community is already discussing the technologies and applications on a slew of Web sites, including OrigamiPortal.com, OnlyUMPC.com, UMPCBuzz.com,and UMPC.com.

Still in the highly portable category of noteworthy developments, this year marked the CeBIT organizers. first attempt to put their show guide on CD-ROM. The paper option, which was all that was offered in the past, weighs in at a full five pounds, so this is definitely a step in the right direction even though it falls short in terms of usability and will need some serious work before anyone loads it on their PDA.

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