CeBIT 2014: An honest verdict on Hannover

CeBIT is one of the most important events in the IT business calendar, and we left generally impressed by our visit to Hannover this year.

A host of leading technology brands, including HP, Huawei, IBM, Intel, Samsung, SAP and ZTE were out in force, complementing a big name keynote lineup featuring Eugene Kaspersky, Steve Wozniak, and Jimmy Wales. Even Prime Minister David Cameron decided to a pay a flash visit to revel in Britain's role as official CeBIT 2014 partner country.

On the startup front, the CODE_n competition was arguably the highlight of the entire event, showcasing some of the world's best early-stage big data companies. To our delight, the crown was taken home by the UK's very own Viewsy.

Read more: Viewsy crowned CODE_n 2014 startup champion

It has been a long and busy week, for sure, but now that things are starting to wind down, it's time to plate up our thoughts on this year's CeBIT - this is the verdict.

CeBIT is back – but still needs to improve

Truth be told, CeBIT hasn't always been the most popular trade show out there. In fact, it fell off the radar for many in recent times, especially journalists. This year, the event made an obvious effort to bring the buzz factor back, delivering a heavy hitting speaker lineup and glitzy Opening Ceremony, all outlined above. As a result, there were some serious stories coming out of CeBIT 2014, but in my opinion, there's still work to be done.

The chief complaint, registered by both myself and the other journalists I spoke to throughout the week, is that CeBIT attracts a noticeably less prestigious crowd than other major tech showcases. Because reduced entry to the exhibition can be had for as little as €25 (about £20), the event is rife with freeloaders and teenagers gnawing at each other to nab the next cheap USB stick or tacky novelty hat.

Holding the dedicated press day on the Sunday was a mistake, in this sense, as the assembled tech hacks didn't really have time to explore the event before the hordes descended. Put simply, moving the press day to the Monday (or running it across two days, like at IFA) would be a major boon for Jimmy and Jenny Journo. I also think that CeBIT could do more to constructively engage with its younger attendees, because from what I could tell, they were primarily interest in eating, drinking, and smoking in the sun, as opposed to actively participating in the event itself. Some kind of CODE_n-style competition aimed specifically at the youth demographic could work wonders, as would a hackathon, coding workshops, or general IT training opportunities.

My other main problem with CeBIT is that, spare for a few interesting keynotes and the odd appearance by matey Cameron, there just isn't really that much to talk about. Responsibility here lies not necessarily with the organisers, but with the manufacturers and exhibitors themselves.

If CeBIT wants to be truly big again, it needs to push participating companies to make announcements and product launches of interest to the general public as well as the IT heads. I know, I know - CeBIT is trying to go back to its business roots, and that's fine. But a few more big ticket announcements wouldn't detract from this mission and would really help boost overall excitement levels. Sorry, but printers and networking solutions just don't cut it at major events these days, at least not exclusively. Give me a new Galaxy, or give me death.