IT Expo

Cebit Reloaded

Digitization AFP
Performance at this year's Cebit.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    At the height of the dot com boom in 2001, the world renowned Cebit computer expo drew in a record 850,000 visitors. That figure slumped to 210,000 last year. Many said the trade show was on its last legs. This makeover could be Cebit’s last chance to reverse that trend.

  • Facts


    • Cebit to reinvent itself as the most important marketplace for the networked digital economy.
    • The information technology fair aims to become a “global event for digital business.”
    • Organizers say visitors and exhibitor numbers will be up this year.
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“D!conomy – join, create, succeed.” Under this motto, Cebit 2016 wants to widen its focus on computers and IT and become “the most important global event for digital business,” as Deutsche Messe board member Oliver Frese put it.

The colorful hall plan for next March’s event is already hanging on a flipboard in Mr. Frese’s 10th-floor office, where he has a view of the expo grounds.

Come March, he hopes to see as many digital movers and shakers as possible down there, networking. “Digitization is a major trend that pulls in all industries and puts traditional business models to the test,” said Mr. Frese.

Small and mid-sized companies, in particular, have some serious catching up to do, he added.

“Digitization pulls in all industries and puts traditional business models to the test.”

Oliver Frese, Board member, Deutsche Messe

Reflecting this urgency, Mr. Frese has added the words “join, create, succeed,” to last year’s motto “d!economy,” or digital economy. Only those who participate in digitization and help shape the transformation can be successful, he said.

“The motto highlights what happens in the process of digitization,” Mr. Frese said. “Cebit is broadly positioned, and it’s important to have a theme that reflects that.”

It’s a timely shake-up for Cebit. The IT expo has downsized considerably since the heady days of the dotcom boom. Visitor numbers have slumped, new ideas have flopped, and the expo has been outdone on cutting edge issues by such competitors as the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Last year, several large manufacturers even thought about turning their backs on Cebit. In a last-ditch emergency effort to keep them on board, the newly-appointed Mr. Frese responded by completely re-orientating the expo toward companies.

Now, he wants to consolidate that by sharpening the expo’s profile. This year he made digitization the main theme of what insiders are calling the “new Cebit.”

More new bells and whistles are planned for next year, such as show case exhibitions exploring the way IT is revolutionizing agriculture, healthcare and trade.

“Digital transformation now has a platform in the form of Cebit. It's what the industry needed.”

Helmut Binder, Head, Materna IT service provider.

The new-look expo wants to woo not just IT professionals, but also sales and marketing directors who also preside over technology budgets. Plans to expand the Cebit start up platform, Scale 11, have seen Mr. Frese invite 250 young companies to exhibit.

So far the reload is going down well with regular exhibitors and visitors alike.

“Digital transformation now has a platform in the form of Cebit. It’s what the industry needed,” said Helmut Binder, head of IT service provider Materna.

Bookings are up 10 percent on last year. In key areas like IT security and customer management, almost all of the booths are already taken. Newcomers Huawei and ZTE are even planning to double their presence.

But the focus on professionals means fewer visitors overall. That in turn means Cebit makes less of a splash in the media.

“Fewer visitors translate into less media attention, partly because of the less accessible issues,” said Thomas Mickeleit, head of communications for Microsoft Germany.

Another drawback is that every IT expo in the world is focusing more and more on the digitization trend, which means Cebit will continue to face stiff competition from elsewhere.


Christof Kerkmann is an editor for Handelsblatt Online and writes about the technology sector. To contact the autor:

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