A couple of days of springtime weather and I’m dressed for snow and rain, with a couple of press conferences making some rather extravagant claims under my belt. And the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California, at the opening ceremony burned into my skull as if by laser.
He concluded, not unsurprisingly, with the statement that he would be back – while Angela Merkel simpered in the background.
Pretty much par for the course at CeBIT, and you could be forgiven for thinking that everything is normal in Hannover. But it was not so.
It wasn't quite possible to hear the tumbleweeds bowling along the wide avenues of the Messegelande on day one of the event, with day two only slightly busier, but it must be admitted that the greatest IT trade show on earth was rather less busy than in its heyday when it had more than 7,000 exhibitors.
In those days there were 750,000 visitors, most of whom seemed determined to act as an obstruction to one’s progress through the 28 massive halls.
This year, CeBIT had fewer than 5,000 exhibitors and perhaps a little more than 400,000 visitors. Some of the halls were unused and others partly so. And, instead of sending teams of visitors, most large companies sent just one or two people to the event.
However, the general impression is that there was a lot more focus this year.
For a start, everyone is keen on green. Although the focus could also be borne of desperation, with the green emphasis a symptom of an industry that is seriously ill.
As usual, the press conference of Kaspersky Lab founder Eugene Kaspersky was well attended, and gave a lot of food for thought.
He postulated that, with about 10,000 cyber criminals out there being responsible for upwards of $1tr (£722bn) of crime, and with national governments unable or unwilling to bring more than a negligible number of the perpetrators to justice, innovative solutions are needed.
He was not talking about capital punishment, although people who see their bank balances vanish at the hands of fraudsters might push for that option.
Kaspersky said that we need to tackle the three elements that make cyber crime so attractive: it is profitable, easy, and low risk.
He cited a concerted worldwide ATM attack last November that saw $9m pulled from cash machines in just 90 minutes. Criminal investigators apparently still have no leads on this crime.
He pointed out that the penalty for spamming in Russia is just €100 (£92), and the rewards so far outweigh the penalty that there is no incentive not to spam with criminal intent.
Cyber crime easily crosses borders and with, as yet, very little by way of international cyber police (Arnie, I think we have your next job sorted out), there really is little by way of deterrent.
Kaspersky suggests that we are all citizens in at least two places these days: our country and cyberspace. “The internet is just another country, but with a population of one billion,” he said.
So it is time the new frontiersmen cracked down on the outlaws, rustlers and snake-oil salesmen in their midst. We need some tough-talking, hard-nosed lawmen, implementing really tough penalties. (Arnie, where are you?).
And we need lots of barbed wire, and some tough government.
Governor Schwarzenegger said this is in fact the best time to have a trade show.
“In times of crisis, you can respond in one of two ways. You can sit back and whine and resign yourself to defeat, or you can stand up, challenge yourself and everyone around you to work even harder, and you can refuse to fail.
“You can use crisis as an opportunity to shine, to leap past your competitors who are maybe taking it easy and looking for the easy way out. That’s what winners do.”
And that is what CeBIT seems to be aiming to do.
It has constantly reinvented itself to reflect changes in the technology, patterns, trends and structure of the IT sector, and those people and companies who come to Hannover at this time, whether as exhibitors or visitors, are doing their best to ensure they too stay top of the pile.
Asus is one company determined to do just that. With its mantra of inspiring innovation and persistent perfection, it mirrors the ethos necessary to triumph.
And Asus chairman Jonny Shih took the opportunity of celebrating the company’s twentieth anniversary a few months early, highlighting some of the innovative products the company is bringing to market this year, and that have secured it third place in the EU for notebook shipments.
A third of all desktop computers are now powered by Asus motherboards.
Shih said Asus is working on a new concept, the WE PC, which he defined as: “You dream it, Asus builds it, Intel inside it.”
If that sounds a bit too much like cigarette-packet marketing, remember that this is the man who, along with his co-founders 20 years ago, had the simple idea of starting “a small but beautiful company”, and look where it is now.
While the current economic climate is perhaps reflected by the number of CeBIT visitors this year who brought their own sandwiches, even today there is a place for visionaries. And there is still no better place than CeBIT to showcase their dreams.
Keith Warburton is chief executive officer at the Professional Computing Association (PCA)
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