March 6, 2008

CeBIT 2008 Scales Back and Goes Green

This year's CeBIT 2008, Europe's biggest information technology fair, went green this year. The event was held in the northern German city of Hanover, and was a shorter, scaled-back version of previous shows, devoid of the typical expansive exhibits and fanfare.   

"CeBIT Goes Green -- Big Time" was the top headline of the official CeBIT News on Wednesday, acknowledging that "green IT" is a vital imperative as both energy costs and climate-altering carbon emissions continue to skyrocket.

The intent of the show was to translate declining exhibitor and visitor interest into a virtue by using the lack of pageantry to create a business-like venue where managers could conduct business meetings and check out the competition.

"We decided to do product launches globally at CES," said Michael Langbehn, who oversees PR and marketing in Germany for electronics maker Panasonic, referring to the vast annual consumer electronics show held January in Las Vegas.

"Then there's IFA, which is a must," he told Reuters, referring to the August/September consumer gadgets fair in Berlin that has drawn electronics makers and the German public away from CeBIT.

"And then consider the BRIC countries, which also have their own fairs that are growing."

This year's CeBIT attendance was 5,845, a 5 percent decrease from last year.  Like most exhibitors, Panasonic is using the event to showcase its less alluring business-system products to potential customers.

Talks of "solutions" of all kinds were plentiful at the show, with Cisco being one of the few to talk about the underlying problems demanding these solutions.  The company launched a new Internet router to help customers manage a surge in monthly data sent over the Internet expected to reach 29 exabytes by 2011 -- equivalent to 144 times all the world's printed matter, the company said.

CeBIT organizers had built a "green village" to house companies marketing products that increase energy efficiency and reduce toxic waste, in keeping with the environmental theme of this year's show.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, by far the highest-profile speaker at the event, conformed with the trend by announcing a deal with German energy provider Yello Strom to collaborate on technology that displays electricity consumption on home computers.  But most were mainly interested in questioning him about Microsoft's $42 billion campaign to acquire Yahoo.

According to a Reuters report, the IT and communications industries have now overtaken aviation in terms of carbon emissions that contribute to global warming, and now account for 2 percent of total emissions.

Two contradicting forces are present in the way these industries contribute to emissions.  On the one hand they contribute to the he problem through the hidden environmental costs of transporting electronic parts around the world to assemble them where labor is cheap, but on the other hand IT can cut the need for travel for face-to-face meetings.

Greenpeace, an environmental group, said it would closely scrutinize the green claims of electronics manufacturers, which may be driven more by a need to cut costs than a desire to save the planet.  At a sparsely attended news conference, the organization singled out products from Apple, Sony Ericsson and Nokia for praise while warning, "It's not enough just to offer a green computer for the tree-huggers."

The show concludes this Sunday.

On the Net:

CeBIT 2008