Bigger Is Better at CeBIT Trade Fair

Whether it's a giant flat-panel TV screen, a cell phone with enormous storage capacity, or a tiny PC with full laptop functions, visitors to the CeBIT tech fair are hit with the message that bigger is better — even though it may come in a smaller package.

The show's opening-day buzz Thursday was clearly owned by Microsoft Corp., which unveiled its Project Origami to be an ultracompact personal computer. It claims to pack full-PC capabilities into a machine about the size of a large paperback book.

With three working models built by Microsoft partners Samsung, Founder and Asus, the four companies drew big crowds — and even German Chancellor Angela Merkel — to see the device in action.

Elsewhere at the show, exhibits ranged from the futuristic displays by mobile phone makers Nokia and Sony Ericsson to an entertainment-oriented setup by Samsung.

South Korea's Samsung brought a host of new or improved devices, including a mobile phone featuring a built-in 10-megapixel camera — 2 megapixels more than its top offering last year.

Then there was its cell phone that features an 8-gigabyte hard drive for storing tons of photos or music.

In debuting the SCBH-600 camera phone, Lee Ki-tae, the head of Samsung's telecommunications business, said it would go far in helping the company snare more market share.

"Increasing our market share in Europe will be decisive in determining the survival of our mobile phone business," he said Thursday, vowing to push its slice up to 15 percent from the 13 percent it currently has. That is still half of the 30 percent of Finland's Nokia.

The phone is set to go on sale in South Korea by June with a rollout in other markets later this year. To store photos, it features MMC micro memory cards of varying sizes.

It also will record MPEG4 videos and can play MP3, AAC and AAC+ files. Additionally, it has a jack for connecting it to a TV for bigger-screen viewing.

Taiwan's BenQ Siemens brought a massive display of its phones.

Many visitors were drawn to the company's EF51, a small square box that looked more like an MP3 player than a cell phone. A flip of the lower half of the case revealed the key pad. The device plays music, too.

One interesting feature allows the user to speak the name of a song into the phone, and it will search for the tune and start playing it. The phone also doubles as a karaoke machine, with lyrics displayed on its color screen.

The phone is expected to be out between April and March, but the price has not been set.

For fans of home theater, several companies showed off the latest in big-screen TVs. Really big.

Samsung showed off its 102-inch flat screen television, but just a few steps down Panasonic went even bigger — 103 inches. It displayed a lifelike video from the East Village Opera set in New York City with scenes of the Staten Island ferry.

On a smaller scale, the ubiquitous popularity of Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod was evident.

One accessory, from Vanguard, looked like a simple aluminum stand on which to prop an iPod while its battery is charging. But unlike other chargers, a plastic magnifying screen could be flipped down, making the display appear larger than it actually is.

"It makes the screen larger and easier to watch," said Francois Niederlender, a company spokesman, adding it was expected to be available by the middle of the second quarter.

CeBIT has more than 6,200 exhibitors and is expected to draw as many as 500,000 visitors by the time it ends Wednesday.