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Spotlight at CeBIT fair to shine on e-commerce, Y2K


   For more computing stories


March 15, 1999
Web posted at: 1:47 p.m. EST (1847 GMT)

FRANKFURT (Reuters) -- Germany's gigantic CeBIT trade fair in Hanover this week will throw a spotlight on two of the hottest issues facing the computer and telecommunications industries -- electronic commerce and the millennium bug or Y2K.

With Europe poised for an explosion in Internet commerce, CeBIT plans to give some 700,000 visitors a look at the technologies that will drive the e-commerce boom and some of the companies leading the way.

"The future of business is online," said Hans-Juergen Werner, technical programs manager at the European headquarters of Intel Corp.

Companies like Deutsche Telekom AG, SAP AG, IBM Corp and Intel will use CeBIT to highlight their latest technologies for shopping, selling, buying, paying and winning over the Internet.

Deutsche Telekom will launch an online mall as well as a secure system for credit card payments over the Internet.

SAP will unveil a Web site, using its software, where businesses can order office products. Intel plans to highlight successful online merchants at its CeBIT display, and tout the new security features in its Pentium III processor.

Europe has so far trailed the United States in cyber sales, but researchers expect that to change soon.

"E-commerce activity is exploding across Europe," the European Information Technology Observatory said in a recent report. In the next few years, it will become "normal practice for every organization that wishes to remain competitive."

Western European Internet commerce sales are expected to hit 28 billion euros ($30.57 billion) in 2001, from only 970 million euros ($1.05 billion) in 1997, according to forecaster International Data Corp.

But e-commerce won't have the CeBIT spotlight all to itself. With only nine more months to go until 2000, plenty of CeBIT visitors will be on the hunt for new products to help them protect their computer systems from the millennium bug. With the large number of international exhibitors at CeBIT -- 63 countries will be represented -- the show should raise the importance of the millennium bug in those countries that are lagging behind.

Last week the U.S. State Department said even Germany and Japan are not moving fast enough to prepare for Y2K, while Russia, China and others could face widespread outages unless they move quickly.

This year's CeBIT will also serve up plenty of the standard Hanover fare -- cool technologies, hot computers, ever-shrinking phones and a bit of controversy.

Sweden's C-Technologies, for example, will show off its C-Pen, a pen-sized device that can scan text from a newspaper, book or report, and then transfer the data to a PC word processor, all without wires. Siemens AG will have a security device on display that recognizes the fingerprints of authorized computer users. Compaq Computer Corp and other PC makers are expected to display PCs with new 500MHz Pentium III chips from Intel. New lightweight mobile phones with Internet capabilities will come from Motorola Inc and Nokia Oy.

As for controversy, sparks should fly right from the start. Sun Microsystems Inc Chief Executive Scott McNealy is due to deliver the keynote address at the opening on March 17. He will have a lot to say about electronic commerce -- Sun's Java language and server computers are favorites for Web site developers. But he is also a strong critic of Microsoft Corporation and rarely misses an opportunity to bash chairman and fellow billionaire Bill Gates and his business practices.

(1 euro = 1.09 U.S. dollar)

Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

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