CeBIT 2012

We head to the world's largest digital and IT trade fair in Hannover.
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01 .Final wrap-up

The gallery shows some of the highlights from CeBIT. Click 'Show info' for photo descriptions.

Why are we showing a car at CeBit?

connected-car-audi-3Audi and BMW are pushing their connection technology at CeBit, with large installations to get car and tech enthusiasts excited. 

The A3 (pictured right) is Audi's first model to use the modular infotainment platform - which means internet connectivity to monitor the car's performance as well as provide web access to play media. 

The network runs on UMTS (3G) with a move to the LTE (4G) standard when the networks are more readily available. BMW has also exhibited at the show, with similar technologies using 3G and a move to LTE (4G) when available. 

There is also an agreement with Vodafone in Europe to have SIM cards issued for selected BMWs which basically makes the car a connected device. 

This sort of technology should be winding its way down to the more affordable cars with the advantage not only being able to watch Youtube in the car, but have your car's performance monitored to determine the best time to service the vehicle, as well as being able to locate and immobilise your car if stolen. 

BMW series vehicles fitted with the SIM chip will provide owners access to in-car online services, a 24/7 personal concierge service and an emergency call function. The technology can also advise the driver on how to avoid traffic jams. 

From 2015 all new cars made in Europe will be fitted with a mobile data connection and SIM card that automatically calls the emergency services in the event of an accident.

Products from CeBit to be covered by CHOICE

samsung-xcoverWhile there were many interesting products to look at during CeBit, most were not available for review. 

However some of the products will be covered by our CHOICE testers in coming weeks. 

Among the new phones seen at CeBit and the MWC at Barcelona is the Samsung XCover, a ruggadised mobile which claims to be waterproof to one metre for over 30 minutes. 

This model will be among a dozen new mobiles to be covered in the next batch of smartphones which you should see online in April.

CHOICE will also be doing a quick review of a mouse pointing device that you attach to your finger. Initial impressions when playing with the device is that it creates the feeling of working with a touch tablet device when working on a PC or Mac. 

Cloud computing has certainly been a strong theme over the past few months and CeBit also focused on the cloud as being the future. However one of the biggest issues that many don't seem to highlight or don't want to raise is how irritating it is not to have data on the device when you want it. 

Wyse has an app called the PocketCloud Remote Desktop which the company claims is a secure and fast way to remotely connect to your Mac or Windows desktop with your iPad or iPhone, no matter where you are. Access your files, pictures, and applications like Outlook, Word, Photoshop, games or any other program. 

We will review the Android and iOS versions and let you know if its as effective as the company says.

It's the world's biggest trade fair but is it still relevant?

robot-pole-dancers-1As CeBit 2012 wound down, it was obvious that the fair has lost its crown as the most relevant technology fair, with events like the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and the CES in Las Vegas growing in popularity.

In fact, many of the products on show in Hannover were already announced at the Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona a week earlier. 

The MWC event continues to demand media attention with many companies holding off on major announcements till the event and companies such as Microsoft and Samsung seeing it as one of the biggest weeks of the year. 

Even camera and camcorder companies that have supported CeBit with huge budgets, such as Canon, Panasonic and Sony, have ditched CeBit in favour of announcements of new model lineups during the MWC. 

Media releases by the CeBit marketing machine steered journalists to products that might provide some coverage, but at times the attempts bordered on the ridiculous. 

One such 'exclusive' was to highlight the pole dancing robots that were not a product and cost thousands to hire out for events. 

While I make no comment on the merits of pole dancing, watching robots dancing in a setting that looked like a lurid backwater nightclub in a Star Wars movie was a bit disturbing.


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Mobile phone as tough as a CAT

CAT-B10While ruggadised phones have been around for sometime, few look as hard core as the CAT B10 (pictured right). 

While the phone would not look out of place on a mining rig, with its yellow and black casing, its surprisingly light and easy to operate. 

It operates on our network 3G bands and uses Android 2.3.5 with the ability to upgrade to Android 4.0 (ICS) down the track. 

Performance was good if not amazing for the time I played with the device (it uses a 800MHz Qualcomm processor). That being said, I also wouldn't throw the HTC Velocity, or Samsung Note in the water or kick it around like I did with the CAT phone. 

It has a front facing camera and the 5MP camera produced clear sharp photos (at least on screen, I didn't print any out) and it is also one of the very few phones I have seen that is dual SIM and 3G, which means you can have a SIM from work and one from home and take and make calls on both. 

All the dual SIM phones we have tested in the past operate on the GSM (2G) network only. 

Look out for a full test on this phone later this year.

Angry iPod docks

Angry-bird-ipod-dockWhile there are hundreds of resellers extolling the unique nature of their digital wares at CeBit, many are pushing the same type of device - the dock

The dock comes in many sizes and shapes, some look like oversize Lego blocks, while others take on the various characters in the popular app game Angry Birds (pictured right). 

Connectivity with iDevices such as the iPod, iPhone, and iPad using the proprietary connection are all over the show. Manufacturers are grizzling about the $5 or so that goes to Apple for every device they sell, which they admit they pass onto us. 

Other connectivity options that are becoming increasingly more common are devices using Bluetooth or WiFi for added versatility, as the speakers can support many more devices than merely products coming out of an Apple store. 

Many of the devices will be showing up in our next portable dock test. We will no doubt give a more thorough assessment, but on first listening the Angry Bird docks sounded very cheap and chirpy (pun intended).

The gallery shows some of the highlights from CeBIT. Click 'Show info' for photo descriptions.

Wireless HD Video

little-deviceWith the surge in popularity for online apps such as iView from the ABC and various TV show download options available for iPad and Android devices, many users are watching their favourite series on 10-inch screens.

They're often watching in the same room as their 52-inch HD TV, due to the difficulties in getting the content from the device to the TV.

Many of the exhibitors at CeBit have recognised this need to get video from the media devices to the TV and have various solutions available.

Noontec was showing its recently introduced iPad dock with HDMI out (pictured right), making it a quick and easy solution for watching your content on the big screen.

However if you can't make a physical connection to the TV, you can use a wireless technology that seems to be gaining momentum finally after being introduced as a standard in 2009.

Called the Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL), this standard directly connects mobile phones and other consumer electronics (CE) devices to high-definition televisions (HDTVs) and displays.

The important features of this standard are the ability to support up to 1080p high-definition (HD) video and digital audio while simultaneously charging the connected device. There were a few devices using this standard at the show and the performance on first viewings were impressive.

You simply plug the adapter into the device and send HD video and audio to the receiver with no codec involved. Mobile phones that already support this standard include the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy Note and HTC Sensation XE.

Action camera looks very Heroic...

AEE-action-camcorderCHOICE readers may remember our first look review of the Hero Pro 2 camera, which can be attached to a helmet, car or virtually anywhere to capture action video and photography in all sorts of challenging environments.

We found the performance to be everything claimed by GoPro, and we are now using it to video some of our tests, such as our upcoming tyre test. So when we saw what we thought was the Hero on one of the CeBit stands we had to take a look.

As the images show, this device looks very, very similar to the Hero. It's called the AEE Action camera which I would say is a fairly strong homage to the Hero device.

One thing the AEE has that isn't available with the Hero HD camera (yet) is a remote control and a ski pole adapter which many action camcorder users may find useful.

However, I'll reserve judgement on whether the AEE action camera performs as well as it feels (which is pretty cheap) when we get it in for a test.

The company insists they are available in Australia but the website shows no product.

Take a look at the images of the camcorder in the gallery.

No surprises - China dominates the small exhibitor halls

combination-mini-USB-idevice-chargerWhile the Apples, Sony's and Samsung's of the world dominate the new product section of the media, there are a huge number of smaller companies often introducing innovative solutions.

While the quality can be hit and miss, there are still some gems to be discovered among the smaller halls. For example, there are 105 companies exhibiting at the CeBit starting with the name Shenzhen (a city on the Chinese coast) in their title.

One of these companies makes external battery solutions to keep your iDevice or Android phone going long after the onboard battery has given up. However unlike some other external batteries, one of these products has a huge 6000mAh capacity. But still fits in your pocket.

The stalls are filled with various ways to connect everything you have to any video display you could think of, but many of the companies find it difficult to create product for the Australian market citing the unusual power plug as the biggest issue.

However, on the down side some of the companies cite the extremely stringent battery and power standards that have to be met to get into the Australian market as a if it were a bad thing.

The gallery shows some of the highlights from CeBIT. Click 'Show info' for photo descriptions.

Fast, safe and light as a cloud

security3The technology roadtrain has travelled across Europe from Barcelona to Hannover, and some themes continue to dominate, whether you are working on a PC, Mac or mobile platform and that is security and cloud storage.

CeBit 2012 focuses more on the hardware side of things compared to the Mobile World Congress, with a big push towards networked attached storage (NAS) storage as the best way to integrate existing computing hardware. This comes as more and more people,  store an increasing amounts of content 'in the cloud'.

Major players in this area include Netgear, Buffalo and Imation. These companies are promoting new NAS systems, which they claim are effective for home users to keep their content (both on the home PC and also stored online) backed up and secure.

Hand in hand with cloud storage is the need to keep data safe from loss and online threats. Security companies such as Sophos, Kaspersky and McAfee have a huge presence at CeBit. Despite the subject of online and file security not seen as 'sexy', the organisers felt security was important enough to be one of the main themes of the conference.

Gamers still driving tech, but not on ultrabooks

CeBIT-LEAD-gamingTwo giant halls were devoted to gaming in all forms on Intel based PCs and notebooks.

The numbers in these areas were very large, yet very different from the CeBit attendees throughout the rest of the conference. Pants below the hips, messenger bags and Gen Y confidence were prevalent, and the only people wearing suits were manning the stands.

Gamers were suitably impressed with the latest processing advances and improvements in video performance.

However as much as Intel would like to think that ultrabooks are making waves in all areas, gamers seem to be ignoring lightweight notebooks. Instead, they're turning towards the biggest PCs and laptop computers available, to ensure they don't fall behind when playing with friends and enemies on a local network or online.

Apple still rule on the shop floor

iphone-case-sketchupOne of the most startling observations to be found at Barcelona's MWC was the downright animosity towards the iOS platform.

Many of the people working at smaller developer stands told me they create for the iOS as an afterthought, and the most interesting moves were in the Android and even Windows Phone space.

In direct contrast, CeBit 2012 remains an Apple world when it comes to gadgets and accessories. The conference is focused on hardware rather than software - and its all iPhone and iPad.

The iPad accessory has become a complete industry, with covers for the device ranging from $20 to $200 and sometimes even more. Mapi cases have a range of leather iPad and iPhone cases that seem well made while incorporating some interesting solutions for viewing the device in portrait or landscape.

However for those who want to display their own creativity and not spend so much on their phone, one maker called Trexta has released an iPhone case called the sketch up where you can draw on the back and make your own unique cover for about $20.

Coming up

Tomorrow, I'll bring you more on wireless HDMI sending HD video out of the wireless device and onto your TV as well as watching your tablet content on your TV using HDMI. I'll also look at an action camcorder that looks suspiciously like the Hero Pro we looked at recently at CHOICE.

Take a look at our Technology section, for more information about software and online services, and phones and mobile devices.

We've sent CHOICE staffer, Denis Gallagher to CeBIT to find out exactly what will be happening in the world of cameras, camcorders and printers throughout 2012.

Best of all, the reports will be brought to you by CHOICE and no one else. Unlike almost all of the media attending, our coverage is not funded by any industry-related company.

This means if any products announced are underwhelming, we'll tell you!

About the event

The CeBIT fair in Hannover, Germany is the largest digital and IT trade fair in the world with most of the largest consumer electronic and general IT announcements made by companies such as Canon, Sony, Panasonic. 

Virtually all major announcements that will impact on consumer electronic products over 2012 and 2013 will be made during this week in March. 

Denis will get hands on look at the products that are to be released in Europe and the US before they arrive on our shores later in the year. 

The digital products to be covered in this event include digital camcorders and still cameras as well as all the peripherals such as colour printers, storage and networking products.

CeBIT will be held from March 6 through to March 10.

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