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The CeBIT Show

CeBIT is the world’s largest computer fair, held in Hannover, a town in northern Germany. CeBIT means a lot of people, a lot of companies, and a lot of stress. This year CeBIT boasted 600,000 visitors, with the masses pumping through the halls. CeBIT costs a lot, especially for the exhibitors, and even network giant Novell stayed away this year.

Apple didn’t stint on CeBIT, creating one of the biggest stands – including its own display area for an exciting show. The show was a running event; visitors had to fill out a boarding pass to enter. Entering Apple’s domed hall allowed a brief respite from the rush of CeBIT. Real Lauda Air and Lufthansa stewardesses opened the doors of the round showroom. In middle was the stage, cloaked in red and black. You could feel the excitement. Even the seats were unusual: real airplane seating rows.

The doors shut. A stewardess explained the exits like in a real flight, and the lights faded away. From the ceiling four projection screens lowered, and high volume sound flooded the room. The screens came alive with a flight through the universe, into our solar system, the creation of earth with storms, volcanos, earthquakes. It passed into the rising of mankind: cities, tools, industry, the computer. During this stunning event four dancers in tight black dresses took positions, their faces hidden under masks. Then we saw a DOS machine saying "Error." Pling! The Macintosh startup sound rang through and the happy Mac face loomed on the screens. The dancers removed their masks, switching from ghosts to humans, and entered a marvellous act replete with more sound, wild dancing, fog and lighting effects. This was no show, this was multimedia war. The pictures ceased for a moment, the dancers holding PowerBooks in their hands. The show ended with a big bang, but with no word spoken about a product. This was smoke and mirrors, image all the way. Buy a Mac and you will be part of the show. The stewardess collected the boarding passes and the audience stumbled back to the noisy show.

Apple fans left wearing big smiles because they were part of the show; other users filed out, fascinated; but I left unhappy. I wanted to see some new Apple products and the only one was the PowerCD CD Player, a cute 3.1 pound semi-portable that plays CD-ROMs on the Mac, Kodak PhotoCDs on a TV, and audio CDs on a stereo. Although the PowerCD sports a 550 millisecond access time, it is multisession PhotoCD-aware, can run on AC power or four C batteries, and will cost under $500 when it appears this summer.

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