It was a battle of the giants at the huge CeBit trade show as Microsoft and Sony faced off over displays of their game consoles.

Ultimately Sony responded by removing its Playstation 2 machines from the show, but not before somewhat putting out some of the new Xbox's fire.

Microsoft had brought its own Xbox consoles along, 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 metres of floor space, said Detlev Rossa for the show's organisers.

"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 runs in Hanover until Wednesday, 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 Germany, which organised the CeBit display.

This little spat reveals more than it seems, though. Sony's becoming far more open about it's strategy for Playstation as a future total home entertainment solutions package.

"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… we decided on Sunday morning to remove the Playstations," he said.

Microsoft Germany referred IDG News 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 organisers will approach both companies immediately after the show in order to clarify the rules for next year.