Monday, March 19, 2007

CeBIT 2007 is better than expected

Many critics had said that CeBIT is out of date and that it had lost ground to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona, which have been held some weeks before. But Hanover's CeBIT is still the world's largest computer expo. After half of the time CeBIT has ten per cent more visitors than last year and to me it was more interesting to me than ever. Maybe because of the technological promises that at last have been accomplished after years of cheap talk.

It started with Vodafone's and T-Mobile's presentation of Europe's fastest 3G internet access for laptops and mobile phones: The new network combines High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) and High Speed Uplink Packet Access Technology (HSUPA). So it can deliver download speeds of up to 7.2 Mbits/s and uploads of up to 1.45 Mbits/s. That's faster than most classic DSL rates. I was impressed to see a 100 Megabyte FTP download to a laptop taking only 2:45 minutes. „The new HSDPA is at least seven times faster than every 3G internet access you get in the US“, said Vodafone spokesman Jens Kürten to me. „We will roll it out in Germany in the next months.“ Vodafone's 3G network covers already over 2,000 cities in Germany with data transmission rates of up to 1.8 Mbits/s. Faster transmission rates of up to 3.6 MBits/s are available in all major cities and 7.2 Mbit/s will follow soon.

But while Kürten sees it more as a replacement for fixed line internet access and Wifi hotspots on laptops Samsung presented already a tiny mobile phone which really can make use of such amazing speeds. The F700 looks from outside very similar to Apple's iPhone and has the size of a normal cell phone. But when you slide it open there is an entire keyboard for writing e-mails and chat messages. Unfortunately the interest in the phone was so big at CeBIT that the F700 had to be held behind glass and I could not check out the download speeds. Hopefully with devices like this the mobile network operators keep in mind what Germany's head of state, chancellor Angela Merkel, told them in their CeBIT opening speach: to bring down their prices. „You get more clients when you make it cheaper“, she said to more than 2000 IT managers. Many cell phone companies still charge more than 9 Euro per Megabyte and wonder why the mobile internet usage isn't higher among their clients.

With HSDPA these prices are just a joke and new Notebooks like Toshiba's „Portégé R400“ already come to the shelfs with built in 3G internet access and bundled with T-Mobile or Vodafone contract. The R400 downloads e-mails and synchronyzes the calendar continuously, even when it's closed or in standby mode. A second display outside the cover keeps you informed about new incoming messages, whithout the need to open the notebook. Although the luxury notebooks weighs only 3.79-pounds it can be already too heavy for today's miniaturization freaks. So Samsung's revealed on CeBIT it's Q1B, the world's lightest Universal Mobile PC (UPMC) which weighs just 1.67 poundsand runs Windows Vista. With 60 Gigabyte Harddisc, 1,0 Ghz Pentium processor and 7 Inch display the Q1B will is in the US stores from now on for 1299 dollars.

But maybe the times of personal computers are now really over and everything switches to the web. At least this idea came to my mind when the German software company Magix presented their online desktop Mygoya that's still in closed beta. The Flash website fullfils all basic needs of a computer user: E-mails, photo collection with optimization, all known messenger services with voice, videos, music, filesharing and office programs are managed in one Mygoya account. The files are saved for free on the 1 GB storage space and can be accessed from every computer or mobile phone with a Flash player. No need for an own harddisc anymore, because there will be more storage space in the paid version. No operating system wars anymore, because flash runs on virtually everyone.

„Soon the Mygoya desktop will also run Skype“, said Magix promotion manager Janek Bennewitz to me. I wonder how they want to do this since Skype is a closed system. But maybe these days are also over: At least the Italian company PCService presented a great way to bridge Skype and normal phones. Their Linux software Skip2PBX serves as an addition to a company's existing PBX. Installed on a Linux machine, which can also be virtual, it controls up to 30 Skype accounts at one time, using different sessions of the Skype program. When a Skype call arrives it's being redirected to a phone. The Users can call their Skype contacts for free by using short numbers on their phone. While the software still works only with ISDN and analogue phone lines the next version, which is due in june, will build the bridge from Skype to SIP.

A nice addition to existing company PBXs and a great example of the new VoIP ideas presented in Hall 13. The companies there showed how they want to beat the incumbents by channeling more and more calls over the internet. This isn't always automatically the cheapest, we learn from recent news about real „minute stealers“ that take away phone minutes by hacking a company's VoIP gateway. „That's possible because you can configure most PBXs with just few clicks in your browser“, explains Jens-Uwe Junghanns, sales manager of the German PBX producer Junghanns.NET Gmbh. „The built in webserver of the PBX can be an open door for hackers.“ So their poison green „Cruise phone“ PBX for VoIP and PSTN telephony can be configured only from one computer which has the right Java applet installed. German security at it's best that nearly got overlooked at CeBIT in Hanover.

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