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IFA show gets underway

Sabine Kinkartz / hg
August 30, 2012

It's true that there aren't any revolutionary novelties at the IFA event in Berlin. But whoever wants to be filled in on what's the latest in consumer electronics - the audio and video show is the place to be!

Image: Messe Berlin

High-resolution, three-dimensional and connected with one another and the Internet - that's what modern-day television sets, computers, mobile telephones, digital cameras and household appliances are all about. They're again all the rage at this year's international consumer electronics show IFA in Berlin.

The trade fair doesn't really have any revolutionary technical novelties to show off this time round, but the suppliers are hoping to tickle consumers' interest by presenting devices and gadgets which are faster, bigger or show sharper pictures than ever before.

That applies in particular to the devices used most in German households, television sets. More than 10 million of them are expected to be sold in the country in 2012. According to the head of the Consumer Electronics and Digital Home Department at the IT umbrella organization Bitkom, Michael Schidlack, there are two trends to heed.

Hans-Joachim Kamp, ZVEI Vice President
ZVEI's Hans-Joachim Kamp says the world is becoming smarterImage: Messe Berlin

"First, there's no denying that people have more and more television sets in their homes," Schidlack said, noting that the average is two such devices per household, with people wanting to benefit from a multitude of new functions.

"Secondly, consumers nowadays go for bigger devices with superior equipment, or they opt for 3D functionality," he added.

Something new all the time

Those who do are obviously not deterred by the fact that there's not yet a single German-language station around offering three-dimensional television. And there's not a lot of 3D movies available yet either. By contrast, the ability of TV sets to interact with other multimedia devices and the Internet is a common feature. The vice president of the Germany's Electronics Association (ZVEI), Hans-Joachim Kamp, says half of the sets sold this year already have "smart" capability.

"Smart is the buzzword, and if you look at smart TV sets and smart phones, they represent the biggest categories in consumer electronics devices nowadays, accounting for revenues of 13 billion euros ($16.3 billion) annually," Kamp said.

Together with conventional entertainment electronics, the sector is expected to generate 29 billion euros in revenue, up by four percent from last year's turnover. Although market remains competitive, the decline in prices for TV sets seems to have stopped. Last year, market pundits still expected prices to dip by 13 percent, but that's not happened.

"The trend to buy higher-quality TV sets is bound to continue over the next couple of years," says Bitkom's Michael Schidlack. And screen sizes will increase further. "That's become obvious in all nations and it somewhat compensates for former price pressures."

Organic light-emitting diodes

German producers only have a marginal role to play in the television market. The sector is dominated by the South Koreans. Samsung and LG alone account for a third of the televisions sold worldwide.

Michael Schidlack, head of Bitkom's Consumer Electronics und Digital Home Department
Michael Schidlack of Bitkom says TV sets are always a big sellerImage: Bitkom

At the 2012 IFA show, the two giants are presenting screens with organic light-emitting diodes, OLEDs for short. Those allow for more intensive colors and sharper pictures. The first such devices are expected to hit German retailers later this year, most likely in time for Christmas.

At the IFA, producers and traders are preparing the ground for yet another good business year. They're expected to strike deals to the tune of 3.7 billion euros.

Household appliances for their part pay a rather subordinated role, but revenues in this segment have been rising steadily. Here the focus is on low electricity consumption, with today's refrigerators and washing machines using up to two thirds less power than 15 years ago.

"In German households you'd still find about 20 million appliances which are older than 14 years," says Hans-Joachim Kamp. "If we were to replace them all, we could save some 15 billion kilowatt hours per year."

And that's equal to the total output of one and a half nuclear power plants. Modern household appliances have to be "smart" too. Switching on your washing machine from anywhere by pushing a few buttons on your smart phone will soon become quite normal, Kamp argues. Unfortunately, someone would still have to load the machine manually.

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