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CeBIT: cool gadgets arrive in chilly Hanover

Walkman phone, mobile TV and 5Mp camera phone at world's largest technology show

You can always expect a truckload of cool gadgets to appear at the giant CeBIT trade show, which begins next week in Hanover, Germany. Manufacturers are tripping over each other to put more pixels into phone cameras, zap more bits over the airwaves and beam TV to small screens.

What to expect this year? For one thing, smartphones that offer plenty of new features and use a mix of operating systems. While Microsoft Windows Mobile and Symbian grapple with each other for market share, Linux is quietly sneaking in the back door.

Even PalmSource, which makes a rival operating system, sees a bright future for Linux. The company has decided to base its new Cobalt smart phone operating system on the Linux kernel.

Arguably, the big buzzword in applications this year is 'mobile', as in mobile TV – a technology that generated a lot of attention at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes last month. And even though some market research groups (including Gartner and Strategy Analytics) warn of hype, the industry is roaring ahead.

Mobile TV service has two primary and potentially competing distribution channels. One involves mobile phones receiving regular TV broadcast transmissions via special antennas. The other consists of signals transmitted over the mobile network as a stream of video data. The big difference between the two methods is broadcast's one-to-many relationship versus mobile's one-to-one.

Vodafone D2, the German subsidiary of Vodafone, will give visitors an opportunity to view several live broadcasts on a prototype mobile TV device developed by Siemens. Several other manufacturers, including Nokia and Sanyo, plan to show their own mobile TV-enabled phones.

Music, too, is catching on with vendors. Sony Ericsson will show its new W800, the first Walkman-brand mobile phone.

Meanwhile, rumours are afoot that German mobile phone operator T-Mobile will launch a music player of its own at CeBIT. And though Motorola announced its music phone at the 3GSM World Congress, the company has yet to launch it.

What Motorola will show at CeBIT is its range of push-to-talk over cellular (POC) phones, which include a walkie-talkie function along with normal mobile phone telephony service. Nokia will be touting its POC products in Hanover, too.

Speaking of push services, LG plans to show its new push-to-view (PTV) service. Evolved from push-to-talk voice service, PTV lets multiple users share live video in real time.

And the phonecam pixel race is heating up. As cameras become a standard feature of mobile phones, the number of pixels will increase. The camera phones announced at last year's CeBIT were slightly over 1Mp; models with 2Mp or more will dominate the list of new camera phones at this year's event. And experts are talking about 5Mp models in the not-too-distant future.

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