The annual CeBIT computing expo was first staged back in 1970. Held in Hannover, Germany, TechRadar will be at the show all week to get the low-down on the newest technologies on display.

So what can we expect to see at CeBIT? Where CES is dominated by A-list consumer electronics companies, CeBIT has always had a definite IT skew to it.

So instead of glamorous flat-panel TVs, expect wireless N routers, terabyte-class storage solutions, workhorse laptops and all manner of PC upgrades – motherboards, fans, PSUs and video cards by the proverbial bucket-load.

In many respects, this year’s CeBIT is geared more towards business than ever before. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will kick off the show with a keynote speech, eager to push the company’s newly-launched Windows Server 2008 software.

CeBIT 2008 highlights

Eco-friendly computing should emerge as a major theme this year and a range of save-the-planet products will be on show in CeBIT’s dedicated Green IT Hall. Here, we’ll expect to see low-cost PCs, laptops with advanced power-saving features, zero-watt monitors, plus the usual solar chargers and feel-good green IT initiatives.

The company that’s generating some real pre-CeBIT buzz is AMD. The chip manufacturer should make announcements in four key areas: RS789 integrated notebook graphics, hybrid graphics, CrossFire X/GPG, and triple-core 8400 and 8600 Phenom CPUs. It should divert attention away from the ongoing delay to its quad-core 9700s.

ATI Hybrid Graphics allows both an AMD integrated graphics processor and a stand-alone graphics processor to communicate and work co-operatively, yet independently of each other, on an AMD-based system.

Nvidia will also be at the show in force showcasing its new range of 9-series graphics cards, including the GeForce 9800.

Is CeBIT still relevant?

Intel will also be in attendance. The chip giant has told us that it’ll be showing off some cool new in-car technologies, as well as supporting mobo-makers who are using its X38 and X48 chipsets. We could also see some more of Intel's mobile internet devices (MIDs), based on its just-announced Centrino Atom platform.

The likes of Belkin, Linksys, SanDisk, Samsung, Devolo and Dolby will also be showing off new kit.

Yet, despite being the biggest computer expo on the calendar, many tech companies won't be exhibiting at CeBIT this year. There are 5,845 companies registered so far – 300 down on last year. Companies like Creative, Sharp, Sony and even Dell have decided to give it a miss, suggesting that CES in January and IFA in September offer enough exposure for them.

All of which begs the question: is CeBIT still relevant? Critics argue that Hannover is too small to host a show of CeBIT’s size and that its March dates come too soon after the excesses of CES. While it’s certainly one of the biggest shows of the year, it sometimes lacks in industry importance.

But where IT tends to be overshadowed by living room technology at CES, CeBIT gives the sober computing industry a chance to really show off. We’ll assess the impact of this year’s show later this week.

CeBIT facts

  • CeBIT stands for Centrum der Büro- und Informationstechnik. It basically means Centre of Office and Information Technology.
  • CeBIT is bigger than IFA in Berlin, and it absolutely dwarfs CES in Las Vegas. The site where CeBIT held is the biggest showground in the world - the Deutsche Messe -covers 1,000,000 square metres and has 27 halls.
  • CeBIT reached its peak back in 1995 when Bill Gates made a keynote speech there, but since then it’s become less relevant. Many companies now choose to make their announcements and launch their products at other shows.
  • Possibly the most bizarre news to emerge from CeBIT so far (before the show has even started) is that thousands of German prostitutes are pouring into Hanover in expectation of booming business during the show. Apparently 2,000 additional hookers have arrived in town already, with more expected.