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We check out Systems 99 in Munich

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Systems 99 Every year, one or other of the staffers here at La Registra find themselves on the familiar old stomp to CeBIT in Hangover, the biggest trade show in the known universe but not nearly so much fun since the organisers got rid of the Ferris Wheel. It's the only Messe we've been to but courtesy of the unlikely combination of Fujitsu and Siemens, (the anagram servers have fun with that conjunction), we tipped up early yesterday morning at the ICC Muenchen messe, much more manageable than Hangover's with only 12 enormous halles, but neatly lined up in a long corridor and with fake icebergs stacked up four high on vast iron shelves outside. This is the venue for Systems 99, a venerable show, this one is the 18th, overpopulated by computer companies and telecom companies of all shapes and sizes. CeBIT can be a nightmare for the UK press. When we arrived there this year, even though our Messe record was as long as our arms, we were told that entry to the press facilities was verboten for any online journalists. It took an interview with the boss of bosses before we got accreditation, rather than extradition. This was not a problem at Systems 99. The ladies in the spanking new press office had obviously never come across UK journalists before, so was happy to accept our NUJ press card as a representative accreditation from Blighty. She took a photocopy and added it to her book, which was fine for the next UK hack who tipped up, because he also had an NUJ card. The third, however, fell at the hurdle of precedence we had set. The authorities would not admit him because he didn't have the right credentials. The ladies warmed to us...one said she used to live in London. We said oh, where? She said Slough. She had obviously never read John Betjeman's poem. The show was interesting. You'd expect a vast hall to be full of SAP, Oracle, Baan and their coteries, and sure enough there it was. SAP was majoring on something called MYLITTLE.SAP, presumably a variant on the MYLITTLEPONY theme. But this hall, unlike many of the others, was practically deserted. The next hall down had a huge Microsoft presence, with stacks of bothies occupied by their partners. This hall was very, very busy. But there was an air of hostility about the place...of which more later. On the edge of this hall plucky little QNX had a presence. We picked up a copy of its 1.44Mb bootable OS and GUI with TCP/IP connectivity, but QNX was majoring on some embedded system, in cahoots with Motorola. Nevertheless, a fine young chap said that in early 2000, we will see the company striking a deal with some unnamed PC company (not Gateway), complete with applications. He wouldn't tell us much more, but seemed happy to get off the subject of Volkswagen and Motorola. In search of nicotine relief, we then struck off across the corridor which separates the twelve halls, to discover huge exhibits by IBM/Tivoli/Lotus and vastly populated by visitors of a certain type. The system integration and peripherals halls were buzzing too, although there were some omissions. CompaQ had a huge stand, but we couldn't track down Dell at all. Toshiba and the other usual suspects were showing off their notebooks but without the Pentium III mobile parts Intel will introduce Monday. What was very striking was the huge proliferation of both magazines and companies devoted to e-commerce, the Internet, jobs-on-the-net and the rest. CeBIT had better revise its opinion about this Internet stuff for its biggest ever show, CeBIT 2000. We avoided the Linux Park but paid a virtual visit there thanks to Chris Bidmead, a UK journalist who returned to the people carrier enthusing about the vitality of the exhibitors. He said it was full of penguins (was that what the icebergs were for?), and a large number of Linux and Linux-related companies, all of which showed a great amount of vitality and all, according to his report, apparently united in their hostility to Bill Gates and his work. Mr Bidmead also mentioned a very nice new HP workstation running Linux. So would we go there again? The ICC Systems show is certainly more manageable and easier to get to than CeBIT. But there's little in the way of announcements or new products to report. Munich in October is warmer than CeBIT in March and there are plenty of hotels so you don't have to stay in someone's attic forty miles away from the Messegelande. On the other hand, we seemed to be the only foreign journalists there, and one of the side-benefits of CeBIT used to be that you meet up with colleagues and contacts from vendors and can pick up news stories around the bar area. There isn't a bar at Systems 99, but the beer and the sausages in the press office are free. If you want to check the show out for yourself, it has an Internet presence here. ®

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