CeBIT is kind of boring, yet ok

I headed off to the train station on Wednesday morning at 6AM, after a rather sleepless night which was spent twisting, turning and staring at the ceiling, feeling stupid that I had not memorised Intel’s, AMD’s and Nvidia’s roadmaps and quarterly earnings of the last five years.

After all, I did have appointments with all three companies. I hoped I’d be able to ask uncomfortable questions and wrestle interesting information from their minds, information which could easily be categorised as news. My first CeBIT since 2000 – and what a bore it turned out to be. I should have stayed in bed instead.

I arrived at the fairgrounds shortly before the doors were opened for lowly punters and paupers not in possession of nifty press or exhibitor IDs. After passing through the sacred gates I remembered why I had hated CeBIT when I went there back in 2000 – for outside, great cyclopean stone roads lead beyond the horizon, into regions unknown. I recalled endless halls packed with oddly shuffling creatures swaying to distorted rhythms, listening to sages speaking on every corner. An endless, cacophonic litany. H.P. Lovecraft never dreamt of R’lyeh, he dreamt of Hangover’s fairgrounds.

First thing to do was walk over to the press centre and lay my hands on an exhibitor’s list. All in all, I had to do that three times – the stupid booklets always went AWOL whilst walking, talking and taking pictures. AMD called at 9.30 am, just while I was walking up the stairs to the office area and a LAN-cable. Oh, so sorry they were, but they had to cancel my appointment. I wasn’t nearly awake enough to make a riot of the whole matter, so I settled for their excuses. Apparently the person with a title three times as long as his name had to cancel the whole day. They did send me an mail inviting me to a briefing of Magny Cours and so on, but unfortunately it didn’t fit my schedule.

I took the extra time to walk around and noticed I was one of few people wearing a press card who weren’t donning a tie, or a sports coat, or both. It was simply too early in the morning for the t-shirt and jumper fraction. Instead, I was slowly building up a sweat from wearing a thick wool sweater and lugging a 15-inch notebook around. Mental note: lay your hands on a netbook, John. Planet reseller was in hall 15 and was the first thing I went to.

Acer were displaying their Android-based Aspire One netbook, which also packs Windows XP – I simply had to see it. You can change the OS by clicking an arrow in the upper left hand corner. A Microsoft OS sharing diskspace with a rival OS? I can hear beOS turning around in its grave and Jean-Louis Gassée muttering blasphemous curses. The world truly has changed in the last decade – in this certain case, for the better.

Then it was time to head off to Intel. I wandered off into hall 23 by mistake. Intel was sponsoring some big ESL pseudosports event and I couldn’t figure out where the hell I was supposed to go, so I asked at an infodesk. Business lounge, hall 17. I eventually found the lounge after running through the hall twice. Intel didn’t unveil anything new they hadn’t already shown at CeBit. Beckton is going to appear in time, in contrast to rumours.

Intel demoed it’s wireless telly product, which streams content from a notebook or PC to a TV. Such technology benefits from the absence of Digital Economy bills regulating P2P. A nice store solution was also shown, which scans size and stature of people entering a store and recommends what garments would be best. It isn’t designed to work with RFID tags – yet.

I wrote about what Nvidia were showing behind closed doors last week. The new demo they unveiled on Youtube on Friday was hidden in the corner of one of the PR rooms, yet I made do with the 3-monitor 3D gaming and rocket sled demo. Oh, and with a look at some Ion-enhanced netbooks.

AMD didn’t have a booth nor anything else on display, bar behind closed doors. While Intel had an entire hall for punters and a business lounge for the press, AMD only had a lounge – which was by chance only seen from the outside by us.

Google was entirely absent from CeBIT, apart from showing three Street View cars splattered with paint. Google has been receiving a lot of heat from the Christian Democrat minister of consumer protection, who says Street View is a horrid thing invading people’s privacy. Which is somewhat hypocritical, considering the same party passed laws which were either highly embarassing affairs which led to a political backlash and sent net-centric youngsters into the arms of the Pirate Party, or were declared void by Germany’s Constitutional Court. Michael Jones, who started Google Earth, held a rather flaming speech last Monday at the CeBit, in parts a response to criticism voiced by politicians.

All in all, CeBit was okay. In hindsight, it wasn’t the sordid affair I deemed it to be – especially after watching the rather upsetting Germany v Argentina friendly on Wednesday. Most products were already shown during CES in Las Vegas, mobile phones seem to be the exclusive domain of MWC in Barcelona. CeBIT boiled down to a lot of booths from business software makers, Asian manufacturers, a few displays and public debates.

Oh, and it is an utterly tiring affair – the fairgrounds are so large one could theoretically fit an entire mid-sized town into it. With suburbs. And let’s not get started on those stupid miniature roller suitcases people pull around – they are an excellent way to land bang-smack on one’s face and bruise one’s toes. Exhibitors must have nerves of steel.