Billed as the biggest tech show ever seen in Australia, CeBIT opened its doors at the Sydney Exhibition Centre in Darling Harbour last week. Unfortunately, the number crunching had not been finalised at the time of going to press so it is difficult to develop a meaningful picture of how successful the event was. But a more general analysis of the show is still worthwhile.
Event organiser, Hannover Fairs, claimed it was expecting more than 500 exhibitors and 25,000 visitors to descend on Sydney during the three-day event. Overseas exhibitor and visitor numbers were significantly up now that the feared global epidemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that so badly affected last year’s international showing turned out to be a case of Severe Lack of Perspective Syndrome.
Building channels was the main aim of the game for many of those that shelled out for a plot of land at this year’s event and organisers were keen to promote its ability to facilitate matchmaking. Nowhere was the search for true love more obvious than among the 150 smaller companies featured in the AIIA Software Showcase. The aisles were crammed with a seemingly never ending line of business owners hoping to find suitable channel partners that would help them make the leap from selling online or direct to a widely distributed environment. In fact there were so many – some brazenly displaying ‘resellers wanted’ signs – it might well have been worth including a lonely hearts column in the back of the programme guide. Maybe it would have sounded something like this: Young and attractive software start-up in good shape seeks older and more experienced business partner for resale, distribution, integration and maybe more. While more cards probably changed hands than at a national poker convention, you have to wonder how many of these lead to meaningful business relationships and what percentage get filed in a card stacker and never see the light of day again.
From a technology perspective, this year’s CeBIT lacked a bit of wow factor and there was little to get really excited about. Wireless technologies dominated (wasn’t it the same last year?) and the gadgets were mostly new and improved versions of things we have seen or read about before – voice recognition programmes, speaking navigation systems and biometric identification devices to name but a few.
As a news publication, events like CeBIT see editorial inboxes bombarded with endless examples of public relations companies trying a little too hard to make their clients stand out from the crowd. A favourite this year was a vendor who had an ‘Afghanistan IT Warfare Veteran’ flogging its wares at stand J37. “If you want war stories, have a talk to software guru Michael Frings at CeBIT,” gushed the release. With all due respect, war stories probably didn’t score too highly on the agenda for most attendees. But the winner must surely have been the announcement that one vendor’s new 80-inch plasma screen televisions, which are valued at $75,000, would be aimed at consumers with a lot of disposable income and plenty of space. Thanks for clearing that up.