HANOVER: Internet players are set to make a big splash at the world's biggest IT fair opening in Germany Monday, likely to widen the event's appeal from a traditional devotion to pure technology.

While CeBIT, held in Hanover, tends to focus on the business side of technology, it has been overshadowed recently by the gadget wizardry unveiled at other showcases in Las Vegas, Berlin or Barcelona.

"It's not the attendance figures that count but the contracts which are signed," Reinhold Umminger, vice-president of CeBIT's organising company, stressed, ahead of the March 6-9 fair in the northern German city.

But the Internet with all its new possibilities looks set to muscle in on this year's event with some big hi-tech names due to attend after having long skipped Hanover on the annual calendar of technology events.

South Korea's Samsung, Japan's Sharp are due to return. Microsoft, the IT giant which has just launched the test version of a new generation of its Windows operating system, Windows 8, will all also be represented.

And the business networking website Xing will attend for the first time.

Google chief Eric Schmidt will deliver the official opening speech late Monday, alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will also address the fair, and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, whose country is guest of honour.

Schmidt may well use the occasion to promote Google+, the Internet titan's Facebook rival, after The Wall Street Journal recently commented that "Google+ is a virtual ghost town compared with Facebook".

Among other likely highlights is new software that shows in real time what is causing excitement on the Web by reflecting on screen the themes most discussed by 150 million sources including social networks.