March 16, 2005, 11:02 AM — I'm just back from a week-long trip to CeBIT, the world's largest trade show. Spanning 27 exhibition halls and running for seven days, its 6,300 exhibiting companies represented 69 different countries. If you think this is a German trade for the German market only, think again.
As an invited guest of Deutsche Messe, the organization that runs the Hannover Fair grounds and the CeBIT show, I traveled as part of the U.S. press delegation. Unable to house an influx of a half-million visitors, the residents of the greater Hannover area open their houses (well, for a fee, of course) to visitors. Some people have stayed with the same families for years. Our delegation opted for a different solution, staying in a wonderful country inn about 40 minutes from the fairgrounds by train. And these trains run on time.
Plenty of cool-but-useless-to-Americans stuff was on display, most notably terrific mobile telephones that do everything but slice bread. Alas, these all work on the third-generation GSM standard, not the crippled and wimpy CDMA standard used the USA. Too bad.
Exhibits were divided into four main categories: business processes, communications, digital equipment and systems, and banking and finance. Other categories were more futuristic, visionary, and experimental in nature.
What I found very interesting, though, was the channel angle. One exhibition hall was dubbed "Planet Reseller." Though to us, reseller is largely an obsolete term, its use at CeBIT tells an enormous story of opportunity.
Of course, the Europe-to-Europe aspect of Planet Reseller was dominant; that comes as no surprise. But what I found tantalizing was the USA-to-Europe and Europe-to-USA pitches that were within constant earshot.
Many U.S. companies, including distributors such as Tech Data, and vendors large and small were heavily wooing European solutions integrators. I saw U.S. companies with video solutions, Web development tools, security frameworks, and backup platforms looking to partner with German, French, Dutch, Italian, Greek, Swiss, Russian, and other resellers. And this European audience was interested, very interested. Whatever these people think about the quality of American automobiles, they clearly consider American technology top-notch.
Perhaps even more interesting is the converse: European vendors looking for American resellers to sell their wares, and European resellers looking to partner with a New World counterpart to deliver multinational, if not global solutions.
The U.S. has no monopoly on brainpower or great products. Whether its network management systems, banking branch automation, data mining, document scanning and imaging, or dozens of other solutions for the small business and enterprise markets, the Europeans still see America as a land of opportunity --- weak dollar and strong Euro notwithstanding.