CeBIT, starting in the German city of Hanover on Monday, brings together 5,500 tech firms all keen to show off gadgets that are innovative, cutting edge and cool – and this year also green.
Worldwide internet usage needs the equivalent of 14 power stations to run the required computers and servers, producing the same amount of carbon emissions as the entire airline industry, according to German magazine Stern.
And with energy prices rising around the world, if the threat of climate change doesn't persuade the technology industry to change then higher electricity bills will. Germany's biggest web hosting company for instance, Berlin-based Strato – home to 3.5 million websites – uses the same amount of electricity as a small town, and power is the firm's single biggest cost item, Stern says.
And it is with this in focus, and with some Gallic tech flair provided from this year's co-host France, that CeBIT organizers hope to restore some of the event's somewhat waning appeal. The trade fair, which runs until March 9 in Hanover's sprawling exhibition centre, is the world's biggest tech gathering, leaving the likes of Las Vegas, Barcelona and Berlin in the dark.
But this year has seen a five percent fall in the number of exhibitors and a 10 percent drop in the surface area they are using to display their wares. The event has even been shortened by a day in an effort to cut costs.
In going green CeBIT organizers have teamed up with the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, a group comprising leading tech giants like Intel, Google and Microsoft trying to lessen the industry's carbon footprint. And exhibitors at CeBIT will be getting in on the act.
Deutsche Telekom, for instance, says its stand at CeBIT will be 100 percent powered by renewable energy, while German PC maker Fujitsu Siemens will present "green PCs, intelligent cooling concepts, low power consumption and innovative power management."
IBM, meanwhile, plans to unveil an emissions-free computing centre model that uses energy recycling, relying on a "smart heating and cooling circuit based on an innovative water-cooling system implemented at chip level."
But is it all genuine concern about the environment or just PR puff and green hype?
Environmental group Greenpeace will be at CeBIT to decide, vowing to "cut through the corporate green speak and see which companies and products are on the cutting edge of environmental innovation."
And bucking the trend will be Intel, which plans to use CeBIT to unveil the veritable gas-guzzler of the computer world: the 1,000 watt PC for gamers, according to German weekly Spiegel. For comparison, a normal PC uses just 80 watts, and even in extreme cases gaming PCs running at full whack with high performance graphic chips and running off several hard discs only consume 600 watts.
Monday evening will see the fair opened by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, sharing the limelight with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Relations between the host country and Sarkozy have been less than warm in recent weeks, but France is guest of honour at this year's CeBIT with 150 exhibitors flying the tricolore and showing off high tech a la francaise.