After a rainy start, the sun came out on the CeBit trade show here this week. The fountains are sparkling, the grass is dry and there's plenty of room to enjoy it. But, like most trade shows over the past year, CeBit is quiet.

Frank Obschil from Brunel a German technical services company and a seven-time visitor to CeBit said: “This year is a very bad year. This year is the first time I got a parking place [at the CeBit venue]"

CeBit is still a big show. There are 6,526 companies from 69 countries exhibiting in 354,000 square metres of display space. That's down from 7,264 companies across 397,000 sq m last year. Attendance figures won't be released until Sunday, but the quieter halls suggest the numbers will be down from last year's 674,000.

Klaus Zobernig, sales manager with mobile phone giant Siemens, agreed that the exhibition market has been quiet overall. Despite this, a new CeBit exhibition is being launched in New York this June, with 400 exhibitors planning to attend.

CeBit Asia, in Shanghai in September, will have 600 exhibitors, filling the full 15,000 square metres of the Shanghai New International Expo Centre. "The Chinese PC market is now the second biggest in the world and it's booming there. It's incredible to see how fast things are growing," said Ernst Raue, a Deutsche Messe board member.

Hanover, however, is still the main focus and is the show that attracts the most senior managers, Raue said. Other exhibitions are useful for reaching middle management people who might not get to travel to Germany, but Hanover is the place to be to reach the top people, he said.

From a selfish point of view, it's quite pleasant to visit a quiet show. The trains are only half full, the halls easy to walk around. And you want a table in a restaurant? No problem, madam.

But roll on 21 June. That's when Brian Halla, chief executive officer of National Semiconductor, says the industry's economic recovery will begin. On Tuesday Halla refined the prediction he made in November at the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas: it will be at precisely 2:15 pm, Pacific Time. Let's hope he's right.