CEBIT - Microsoft, Sony quarrel over game displays

It was a battle of the giants at the huge CeBIT trade show, as Microsoft and Sony Computer Entertainment faced off over displays of their game consoles. Ultimately Sony responded by removing its Playstation 2 machines from the show.

Microsoft had brought its own Xbox consoles along too, but accused Sony of breaking the rules by allowing visitors to play with its Playstation 2 machines in an area taking up some 100 square meters of floor space, said Detlev Rossa, a spokesman for Deutsche Messe AG, which runs the annual event.

"The character of CeBIT, because of its name, doesn't allow games. It's a B-to-B (business-to-business) show," he said.

CeBIT, which continues through Wednesday in Hanover, Germany, is officially called "World Center for Office, Information and Communications Technology," though the name is rarely spelled out in full.

"Show representatives asked Sony to reduce the number of games to ideally one game per station, to demonstrate the graphic capabilities of the machine, rather than putting the game character in the forefront," Rossa continued. "Sony said yes, they'd do that, and changed the configuration, which was fine with us."

It wasn't fine with Microsoft, however, which complained again, said Rossa.

Sony packed up the 27 machines on Sunday, but the Japanese electronics giant still insisted the Playstation 2 serves purposes other than entertainment.

"It's an important building block of our networking strategy," said Udo Freialdenhofen, a spokesman for Sony Deutschland GmbH, which organized the CeBIT display.

"The Playstation 2 is also a DVD (digital versatile disc) player, an Internet terminal, and finally a Linux workstation," he said, adding that his company has displayed the devices at CeBIT for the past two years without complaint.

"In order to have peace and order at the show -- where we have 50,000 visitors a day to our stand -- we decided on Sunday morning to remove the Playstations," he said.

Microsoft GmbH, the Redmond, Washington-based company's German subsidiary, referred a reporter to a Munich public-relations agency. A spokesman there had no comment, other that to remark, "Xbox was not really a theme at CeBIT, and was not really there in playable form."

Rossa said organizers will approach both companies immediately after the show in order to clarify the rules for next year.

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