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Visitors to the CeBit technology trade show in Hannover, Germany, watch in awe Wednesday, as a Sony representative demonstrates the "Aibo", a robotic dog with artificial intelligence.

Visitors to the CeBit technology trade show in Hannover, Germany, watch in awe Wednesday, as a Sony representative demonstrates the "Aibo", a robotic dog with artificial intelligence. (Raymond T. Conway / S&S)

HANNOVER, Germany — There was a yellow Hummer. Recorded J-Lo screaming, “Let’s Get Loud.” Several scantily clad dancers whirling to the Latin throb.

Combined, this drew a fair-sized crowd.

But the company sponsoring the booth, Gericom, was hawking laptops, not lap dances.

Excessive? Well, it drew attention to a flagging industry, and that seemed to be the focus of the annual technology show. Gizmos practical and exotic from 6,500 exhibitors competed for a slice of a market that, since 2001, has shrunk from the size of Mom’s heaping apple pie to that of a fast-food fritter.

Despite this, the tech sector is fighting back. Genres are converging and expanding: PDAs look a lot more like laptops, with their Windows and color displays; tablet PCs have the same oomph as regular portables, only sans keyboard; and now mobile telephones are getting into the act. New phones offer full-motion video. Calling your scraggly-faced friends at 5 a.m. has never been so much fun.

A firm called Dolch showed off a muscular example of these trends: A prototype 1,500 euro PDI, or portable display interface. It features a color screen that can operate as a wireless monitor, 4 gigabytes of flash memory and a rugged, combat-green body.

“It’s typical for military, and all sorts of rugged industry,” said Ronny Steinhagen, key account manager for the company. The box also resists water to the extent that you can turn a hose on it.

Samsung, jack of digital trades, showed off laptop machines light enough to fly. The silver, Apple-inspired Q-10 model, starting at about 2,000 euro, weighs in at 2.9 pounds.

Laptops look they’ll remain on a diet.

“The future is bigger displays and thinner computers,” said Oliver Malina, a Samsung product manager.

Mobile phones from NEC aren’t much bigger, and can deliver the news, in color. Its new e606 phone, set to debut with full third-generation video support in Britain and Italy, can store up to an hour of moving images and can capture them too. Similar models are already available in Asia.

Jack Gordon, an NEC marketing manager, whipped out the new e606. Its display was bright with news images from Iraq.

“You can see, from the video, that’s not bad for a handset,” Gordon said.

The phone will sell for about 640 euro, and the broadband-quality connections will be provided by telecom company “3.”

In addition to the identity swapping going on between computers and PDAs and phones, the CeBIT show also highlighted the evolution of music and DVD.

Music continues to miniaturize via the ubiquitous MP3 format. A Korean manufacturer, Digitalway, showed matchbox-sized, 256Mb players that sell for 350 euro.

A cigarette-package-sized player with 1.5 gigabytes of memory will debut in September for between 400 and 500 euro. A ganglier, 20 gigabyte model goes for only about 400 euro.

Why? Sexiness is apparently more popular than raw power.

“People select because of the design,” said Jong-weon Seo, a marketing manager with the company. He wore one of the smaller models around his neck like a platinum pendant.

Also present were warring formats for burning DVDs, and even a direct-to-DVD video camera from Sony.

Perhaps the most practical items on display were the “Safe-Mate” and “Safe-Drive” devices from Seju Engineering. They’re personal blood-alcohol level testers.

Won Bae Lee, president of the company, said his 20 euro and 30 euro gadgets gauge whether one has only the illusion of sobriety.

“In Korea, I think same in the United States, so many people have a problem with alcohol,” Won said.

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