HANNOVER, Germany—One of the truly charming features that many old European cities have is a central square, the place—usually near a basilica—where people congregate, socialize, read, get some sun or do business. Italy's piazzas are a perfect example ("piazza" means "broad street").
CeBIT, which stands for Center of Business Information Technology, is the largest IT conference/exposition in the world. The Station spent three days there last week—speaking at, as well as covering, the humongous event.
If you look at CeBIT objectively, it's really just an extension of those town squares: a 2 million-square-foot piazza, with people coming and going, having a beer or sausage, talking business and making deals.
CeBIT ended March 8, and by any measure it had to be a success. Nearly a half-million people were in attendance for at least one day, and 4,300 companies staked out spots in the 27 pavilions on the state- and city-owned campus run by Deutsche Messe.
We examined the rosters and noted that about 95 percent of the companies on site were not American companies. Oh, the big brands—IBM, Oracle, APC, Emerson, Cisco, HP, Sun Microsystems—were there. But there were not a lot of midsize U.S. companies in evidence. There were a lot of mitigating circumstances this year.
The Far East was represented far more than any other geographical sector. Forget the recession; plenty of gadgets are being designed, made and sold from companies you've never heard of located in Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, China and Indonesia.
The question that lingered: Will mega-events of this kind continue to be this successful, as the world economy ebbs and capital spending is limited? The answer: Of course they will.
There will always be a need for a large business party. If not here in green, green Hannover—where the beer and pretzels are plentiful and the skies are usually cloudy all day—then somewhere else.