They were giving away dolphin dolls at the Siemens stand, monkeys at Lucent Technologies Inc, and penguins at some of the companies that sell versions of the operating software Linux.
Nokia, the world's largest phonemaker, presented its new 7650 phone with an integrated digital camera. Sony Ericsson, the handset venture between Sony Corp and Ericsson AB, showed its T68i phone, which accepts a plug-in camera. Both phones let users exchange picture messages.
"We want to see what new products people are bringing out," said Robert Johann, an 18 year-old information technology student from Rheinland-Pfalz. It's his fifth time at the fair and he's here for fun, he said. "At Cebit you can see the best stuff before it comes out on the market."
To make it between the halls, and minimize the time spent in Hanover's cold rain, some visitors traveled on roller blades and kickboards. Circling overhead, at times barely visible in the clouds on Friday, a plane pulled a banner-ad inviting people to computer maker Fujitsu-Siemens in Hall 4. Vodafone Group Plc, Europe's biggest wireless phone company, lured visitors with a large-screen racing simulation against Formula One champion Michael Schumacher. While Schumacher wasn't present, his Vodafone-sponsored Ferrari car was.
"It's been a good experience for us," said Paul Yew, 35, a marketing manager at Sync Systems, a software developer for personal organizers, who was visiting Cebit for the first time after having been at Comdex last year. "The attendance hasn't been so great. Maybe it's the weather, but we're looking more at quality visitors than quantity."
When Cebit attendance last peaked in 1995 at about 755,000, it didn't draw that many people until the 2000 Cebit. Businesses that depend on the show say something even less predictable than the ups and downs in the world's stock market will determine visitor numbers at next year's fair, which is scheduled for March 12-19, 2003.
"It will all depend on the weather," said snack-seller Eisler. "When it's sunny, people come more easily."