The show,which began on Sunday brings under one roof giants such as IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Eriksson, as well as rising Arab start-ups such as Gaza-based business and child software company Modern Tech Corporation.

Microsoft geared up for the launch of its Windows 2003 operating system, which will be unveiled in the Gulf emirate on 21 October before its US premiere due to the time zone difference.

IBM is making a big push for the e-government market with the launch of a "unique" project with the Bahrain government, based on its Linux operating system, said Bashar Kilani, the firm's Middle East and North Africa manager.

"This will be the first in the region," he told AFP.

Tech hub

Dubai also used the event to promote itself as the Middle East Information Technology hub by promoting its billion-dollar Silicon Oasis project in partnership with Intel and the German state of Brandenburg to create a state-of-the-art semi-conductor manufacturing and research facility.

The 23rd edition of the show has
attracted many more exhibitors

"We want to put Dubai on the IT map very strongly," said Muhammad al-Zarouni, director general of the Dubai airport free zone authority and the man picked to head the Silicon project.

He said Dubai was considering offering bigger incentives than other free trade zones, such as providing free land to attract companies to the facilities.

Japan's electronics major Panasonic also made a big splash with a new advertising campaign, featuring Lebanese pop star Amal Hijazi who sang on stage and had Gulf dignitaries swaying along.

Increased interest

GITEX 2003, the 23rd edition of the show, has attracted 26% more exhibitors than last year's 660 and 14% more companies than the 2002 figure of 1520, according to organisers at the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC).

Telecommunications, computing, communications systems and applications, networking and Internet technologies are all featured in the trade fair, running until 23 October.

Dubai Crown Prince, Shaikh Muhammad bin Rashid al-Maktum, inaugurated the event along with the Emirate's deputy ruler, Shaikh Hamdan bin Rashid al-Maktum.

One of the seven members of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai has blazed an innovative trail, setting up Internet and Media cities and engaging in numerous lavish projects in a bid to become the region's e-capital.