Tag Archives | IFA

IFA: Convergence in the Kitchen, Kinda Sorta

IFA has been doing consumer electronics for far longer than anyone’s called them consumer electronics. (The show dates back to 1924; in 1930, the keynote was given by Albert Einstein, who talked about a newfangled device know as television.) This is the first year that the show’s focus has broadened to include appliances as well as consumer electronics; at first blush, that sounds like it makes a lot of sense. After all, the two worlds are converging, right?

Well, maybe a little bit, but as I strolled the appliance halls at the show today, I was mostly struck by how separate the worlds of electronics and traditional appliances remain. Yes, virtually everything from microwave ovens to irons are packed with sophisticated ciruitry these days. But I had visions of new-wave kitchen and laundry gadgets that sit on a home network and do double-duty as entertainment devices, and I saw almost nothing at the show that even hinted at such a merger of devices in the home.

I said almost nothing. Vestel, the Turkish company whose Yoda laptop I already covered, also had a large booth full of kitchen equipment. And it was demoing some concept kitchen/entertainment products which it doesn’t intend to actually sell to anyone.

One was a dishwasher with a built-in TV…

Another was a refrigerator with a TV…

And the third was another fridge with built-in, touch-sensitive MP3 playback. (It was also the shiniest appliance I’ve seen, so it serves a third purpose as a mirror–that’s USA Today’s Ed Baig snapping a photo in the reflection.)

I can kind of see why Vestel isn’t planning to turn these into real products, since none of them look particularly practical. (Especially the dishwasher, unless you’re a midget for whom the TV is at eyelevel.) All the technology exists to make appliances that have consumer electronics-style functionality. But designing ones that make sense is still a challenge. Come to think of it, I can’t think of any examples of anyone succeeding at doing so, unless you cound iRobot’s Roomba.

I’m still convinced we’ll see more examples of smart appliances, including ones that have consumer appeal. Just not at IFA 2008, and maybe not anywhere for a while…


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IFA: A Cow-Spotted Yoda Laptop Vesta Makes

The Empire Strikes Back’s Yoda has appeared on notebooks–of the spiral-bound kind. PC manufacturer has been synonymous with cow spots for more than two decades–but if they’ve ever made a cow-spotted PC, I’ve forgotten about it.

And then there’s Turkish electronics and appliance manufacturer Vesta. Here at IFA, they’re showing a notebook that A) has a “Yoda” label (though no imagery of the little guy–it may have nothing to do with Mr. Lucas’s creation) and B) is covered in cow spots:

Maybe this makes sense if you’re Turkish…


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IFA: The Luxury of Leather…in a TV?

The IFA show floor (floors, actually–the event takes place in multiple halls spread over numerous buildings) is full of flat-scren TVs we probably won’t be seeing in the U.S., from companies I’ve never heard of. Some of ’em look pretty nice, such as those from Loewe, a German company that specializes in stylish sets at high-end prices.

Then there are the ones that we can probably live without. A company called Galactic was showing off flat screens wrapped in interchangable cases made out of leather, a material you don’t see much in consumer electronics of any sort, and which I’ve never seen on a TV:

It’s a weird effect. And apparently, Galactic wants it to come off as, well, kinky. Witness the signage it had up with its leather set:

Creepy, no?


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IFA: The First 200-Hz LCD TVs Are Here! But From Who?

I’ve been spending the day at IFA, the giant consumer electronics show in Berlin that’s Europe’s equivalent of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. I’m having a good time, but one conclusion I’ve drawn so far is that CES has the edge when it comes to major announcements about flashy new technologies and jaw-dropping specs. CES isn’t CES without stuff like the world’s first OLED TV or world’s thinnest LCD or the world’s largest plasma. IFA, however, seems to be dominated by more mainstream products and technologies that are cool, but not cutting-edge. You could argue that that’s a good thing, since very few of us will buy the first OLED TV or biggest LCD or thinnest plasma. But it does make for a somewhat more subdued show.

One exception: There’s plenty of hoopla about the first 200-Hz LCD TVs, which run at a faster frame rate to provide smoother action with less motion blur. The company that’s first to market with this breakthrough is justly proud about it. Here’s a snapshot I took in Sony’s booth:

..and here’s one from Samsung’s booth:

Yup–both companies are claiming credit for being the first. (Sony and Samsung share some LCD production, which might explain the synchronicity here.) The dualing firsts kind of point out the silliness of specsmanship in general: Ultimately, it doesn’t matter much which company was first and which one was second. Unless, of course, you’re talking about marketing campaigns. (“The World’s Second 200-Hz TV” just doesn’t have the same ring.)

Is 200-Hz worth getting excited about? The jury’s still out. Samsung has a demo that showed 50-Hz vs. 200-Hz, but it was so obviously rigged that it wasn’t a useful data point: The 50-Hz video was more flickery than a Charlie Chaplin film. I didn’t see any similar comparison at Sony’s both. Both 50-Hz TVs did, indeed, display extremely smooth imagery, but I learned a long time ago not to pay much attention to TV demos at trade shows, since they almost always look gorgeous. What will matter is how much better 200-Hz looks with real-world data sources like cable and satellite TV and standard-def DVDs and Blu-Ray discs almost nobody ever uses those sources when showing off sexy new technologies.

More IFA tidbits to come, and full disclosure: I’m attending the show as a paid speaker at several panels.


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IFA Starts Today

I’m in Berlin to attend IFA, the giant consumer electronics tradeshow; besides roaming the floors to find stuff to cover here, I’m participating on two panels at the show today. One’s on smart home appliances; the other is on “Guessing Apple’s Next Moves.” Good topics, both–I’ll report back here on where each of the conversations go.

Unlike any other tradeshow I’ve been to, IFA kicked off with a gala dinner last night. The highlight was a speech by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. But there was entertainment, too–including the Human Slinky:


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Meet Miss IFA, the Patron Saint of Consumer Electronics

I’ve attended hundreds of trade shows, but I’ve never been been to one whose spirit is represented by a human spokesmascot. Until now, that is.

I’m in Berlin to attend this week’s IFA, a giant event that’s the European equivalent of the U.S.’s Consumer Electronics Show. And IFA has Miss IFA, who “represents the dynamic and cosmopolitan image of the IFA and the city of Berlin,” according to the show’s organizers, Messe Berlin. “She invites visitors to explore industry highlights, find out the latest information, and discover the vast range of products at one of the world’s leading trade fairs for consumer electronics, and starting in 2008, for Home Appliances.”

Miss IFA has extremely red hair, an extremely red dress, and extremely red shoes–she’s “the young lady with the fiery ginger looks,” according to Messe Berlin. She didn’t have all that much to say when she attended a press conference this afternoon, but she apparently never met a piece of consumer electronics she didn’t like. Here she is in a bunch of stock shots produced for this year’s show, some of which were taken at Berlin landmarks such as the Brandenburg Gate. (More pix after the jump.)

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