CeBIT 2006

(March 14, 2006)

For three or four years now, I’ve been regularly visiting CeBIT (for the uninformed: world’s largest computer fair), usually with an excursion organized by the university and sponsored by some local companies. Of course, I can’t use this comfortable and cheap way any longer. But since I work in Hannover now, getting to CeBIT isn’t hard. So I took most of my overtime and left work after lunch today. After a long tram ride, I had about 4 hours time to visit the exposition. This is much less than I’m used to, so I visited the halls in a well-planned order.

Because I don’t want to write a complete report, I’m restricting myself to a bunch of unrelated key points. Nobody is reading this blog anyway (at least nobody wrote comments so far), so I’m not going to write too much here.

Impressive products

  • The Cowon iAudio U3 seems to be the first serious attempt to create some competition to Apple’s iPod nano. Its feature set is impressive, is is even capable of playing small MPEG-4 video clips. However, the design is not remotely as good as the nano’s, and it comes with a meagre 2 GB of memory only. But it’s promising at least.
  • S3 Graphics enters the stage again with the S25 and S27 graphics processors that could be a viable alternative to the 6200s and X300s in the low-end segment. I’ve seen a S27 playing a Quake4 demo at 1024×768 without AA, but with maximum details in good visual quality at decent framerates.
  • Sharp showed multi-angle displays. These may not be new, but I haven’t seen them before. A typical application is car entertainment and navigation: a single display at the center of the cockpit is able to show a navigation screen to the driver and a movie to the co-driver.
  • Two DVB-S2 products were showcased: The Hauppauge HVR-4000 is a Conexant-based trimode (DVB-T/S/S2) PCI decoder, while the PCI Express card reference design presented by features a H.264 decoder, according to a Heise article. Neither of these products was shown »in action«.
    The Micronas thingie puzzles me, because to my knowledge, Micronas doesn’t have an own H.264 video decoder chip, so they did most probably license an IP core. But that puzzles me again, because they didn’t buy our decoder and I also don’t know about other HD H.264 or multi-standard video decoder IP.
  • At the Novell booth, some SUSE guys showed off Xgl’s eye candy capabilities. The speed was somewhat strange: Moving windows was jerky as hell, but fade-in/out and cube-spin-desktop-changing effects were really nice.
    I’m reluctant to admit it, but the Windows Vista demonstrations looked much better. Seeing Vista in action actually convinced me that the OS will be at least worth a try. Unfortunately, Microsoft didn’t issue Beta accounts at CeBIT.
  • The FSC LifeBook Q deserves the »cutest notebook of the year« award. It weighs about 1 kg, but has all the usual features. In contrast to the other as-light-as-possible notebooks (Samsung and Panasonic come to mind), it’s not only small and light, but also stylish. It actually looks like what you’d expect if Apple would create something like a »MacBook nano«, except it’s black :)
  • NEC had its impressive projector tower again, but next to it, there was an even more impressive single one: The NC2500S. The 120 kg monster is a 2048×1080 DCI-compliant digital cinema projector.

Nice stuff

  • an interesting talk with the Wacom guy and some other visitors about the benefits of graphic tablets.
  • an even more interesting talk with the guys of Chemnitz University of Technology who showcased their ping-pong simulation. They told me how the inverse kinematics of the computer player avatar were hacked in and remotely debugged (!) at the weekend.
  • the incredibly sexy ATI girls (I love redheaded women :)

Annoying stuff

  • AMDs ridiculously small booth
  • the absence of Sony
  • the complete absence of Apple. Even at the adf booth that acted as an Apple booth last year, there were more windows boxes than Macs.
  • most HDTV displays were showcased with either bad source material or wrong settings. Or the displays themselves are bad.
  • I missed what some people call the »ATI hall« (but actually is the WCG hall)
  • Mobile phones get larger and larger. All the new features (like 3 Mpx² cameras from Samsung and SE, or even 8 Mpx² from Samsung) make the devices so large and heavy like they were way back in the last century. Cute and small phones are only available with very basic feature sets.
    By the way, I found the Benq/Siemens products really embarassing. They seemed like two or three years behind the Samsung and SE ones.
  • Microsoft’s new »Origami« or »Ultra-Mobile PCs« (UMPC) don’t live up to the hype. The devices I’ve seen are almost as big and heavy as JVC’s (discontinued) MP-XP subnotebooks, but lack a keyboard. If I wanted a pen-only device, I’d buy a PDA. If I wanted a full-fledged, but small Windows computer, I’d buy a subnotebook. But that Origami stuff doesn’t fit into either category.

Other more-or-less interesting facts

  • At the ASUS booth, there was a real Lamborghini car. That thing just looks cool, I can tell. The car was there because ASUS has a notebook model of the same name.
  • the most frequently shown game on CeBIT was clearly Quake 4

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