Reporters Notebook: Decorum Rules at CeBIT Show

Tech products are serious business at the German venue as vendor tout new developments in open source, system integration, outsourcing and, everybody's favorite, innovation.

HANNOVER, Germany—Remember those days when you wore a suit and tie and polished shoes to trade shows? Those were the days before casual Fridays influenced—and then took over—the trade show business in the United States. At CeBIT, which started here on Thursday and runs through March 16, that old-style formality is alive and well.

I was at the show last week, and the formal show opening (complete with harpist and modern dance), the businesslike appearance of the enterprise IT product booths, and, yes, those suits and ties made a favorable impression. Picking enterprise software or a hardware vendor is serious business.

Learning about business software from someone in flip-flops and a T-shirt does not inspire confidence. The consumer products at CeBIT were in separate pavilions, and thats a good place for such noise and distraction.

The themes at CeBIT were similar to those you hear in the United States, such as open source, system integration, outsourcing and, everybodys favorite, innovation. The difference at CeBIT is that many of the vendors are working on second- or third-generation products and services based on these themes.

/zimages/6/28571.gifVOIP and cell phones were also big at CeBIT. Click here to read how Skype plans to take on the Telcos.

N.R. Narayana Murthy, chairman of Infosys Technologies, speaking at a Technology Industry Summit before the show opened, outlined what he considers the next wave of outsourcing. In what he described as a universal development collaborative model, the traditional outsourcing areas such as the help desk will expand to include consulting, systems development and packaged application implementation.

With fiscal 2004 revenues of $1.06 billion, Infosys now has the financial heft to undertake that expansion, including, according to Murthy, a rapid buildup of the consulting arm in the United States. Like it or not, outsourced development is going to reach deeper into the enterprise.

In open-source software, especially Linux deployments, "Europe is moving faster than the United States," said Stuart Cohen, CEO of Open Source Development Labs.

I caught up with Cohen, who was speaking at CeBIT but was also opening a new office in Europe as well as preparing to open one in India.

The reasons Europe is ahead are numerous but include a stronger Unix heritage, the Linux genesis from Europeans and a desire not to be tied to a proprietary system (especially in government IT) from a U.S.-based company, contended Cohen.

The wider use of mobile phones and wireless products in Europe also augurs well for Europeans to lead in the adoption of open source into those products, said Cohen.

When Comdex was in bloom, the show was largely centered on Microsoft. The lead keynote was always from Bill Gates, and the Microsoft partner pavilion was always packed.

At CeBIT, SAP plays that leading role. The Walldorf, Germany, company had a large booth complete with a second-floor cafe level, and CEO Henning Kagermann was a keynoter in the shows opening. Kagermann, while championing innovation like so many of his corporate CEO peers, took the time to explain what he meant by innovation rather than simply expressing support of the concept.

"Business model innovation is displacing product innovation as a driver of competitiveness. Managers all over the world see IT as the central element for developing these business model innovations," said Kagermann.

In an interview at the show, Kagermann said one reason SAP has been moving to develop and acquire vertical-market capabilities is to strengthen its capabilities to deliver those innovations.

Editors Note: This story from the print edition of eWEEK was modified to reflect the timing of its publication online.

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