CEBIT - Cebit reports a strong first half

Contrary to reports of an ailing Cebit, organizers say it has got off to a strong start

The organizers of Cebit sought on Sunday to quash talk of an downturn in the fortunes of the world's largest IT fair, saying attendance was stronger this year than many observers had predicted before the show.

Speaking at a news conference held to mark the midway point of the fair, Ernst Raue, managing board member of Deutsche Messe, said attendance in the first three days of Cebit 2007 is clearly above 200,000 visitors. That's a rise on last year.

"We are pleased to tell you Cebit started very powerfully. We've had good visitors and 10 percent more than the same time last year," he said.

The absence of several major vendors from the show and a "restructuring" plan announced earlier by Deutsche Messe had some fearing that Cebit was travelling a similar route to fairs like Comdex, which once ruled the industry but quickly fell out of favor with vendors.

"To be very honest, when we started to go to Cebit this year our expectations weren't too high because we thought from what was in the press it would be slower than last year, but now the first day has passed and the first day was in fact much more busy than last year," said Stefan Engel, managing director of Acer Germany.

Engel said he expects Cebit to become more of a place to meet customers than an event for launching new products.

"It is the largest and most important fair for the European market and is by far the largest fair in the world, therefore we stay here," said Achim Berg, general manager of Microsoft Germany. "For us, and for our customers and our partners, it is very important to be here."

Cebit kicked off on Thursday with a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the first two days were dominated by visitors who appeared to be from business and the trade. However, consumers filled the fairground over the weekend. They came to see the latest in computers, TVs, MP3 and digital audio players and the sights and sounds that go along with big IT trade shows.

Sharp said its new products were attracting lots of attention from both business and consumer users. In the latter area, its 108-inch LCD TV was bringing in the crowds.

"A lot of press people are here, all important dealers are here, very much consumers, so more than we expected," said Frank Bolten [cq], managing director of Sharp's German and Austrian unit. "Cebit 2007 is quite successful for us."

Before the show began Sharp staff were spotted wearing jackets that read in Japanese "sayonara Cebit," or goodbye Cebit. The company hasn't yet decided if it will be back next year and those jackets might have just been the result of a misunderstanding, said Bolten.

"I understood that this somehow brought some confusion but this was a kind of joke for saying thank you Cebit or something. Perhaps it was a not so good translation," he said.

Cebit 2008 will run for seven days, that's one day shorter than this year and one of the steps of Deutche Messe's reoganization plan. It will also be moved to run from a Tuesday to a Sunday next year.

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Martyn Williams

IDG News Service

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