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IFA 2013: The return of summer CES?

by David Mercer | 9月 05, 2013

There aren’t many analysts and journalists still standing who recall the days when there were two CES’s a year. Even just thinking that thought is enough to bring on a cold sweat at the thought of duplicating the round of interview planning, travelling and meetings which now take place from November to January. The last summer CES took place in Chicago in 1994, but it seems like the bi-annual model may be re-emerging by stealth.

Germany’s IFA show has been morphing slowly but surely towards a more CES-like model over the years, and the press days this year are as close to the CES experience as ever. In contrast to years ago, when press conferences were dour, German-language only affairs away from the show floor, they are now larger and louder showpieces taking place often at the exhibitor booths, some of which, praise be, are available for viewing in relative peace and quiet before the great German public gets to cram the exhibition floors to overflowing the following day.

That will presumably remain the big difference between IFA and CES: the former is very much a consumer event whose technology exhibits and on-site TV shows attract hundreds of thousands of (mainly) German residents every year. The latter, of course, remains a strictly trade-only event.

But IFA is apparently recognising slowly but surely that it needs to cater more effectively to trade and press visitors, and the latter are certainly better looked after than in olden days. There is still the fun of a negotiating the absence of signage across much of the sprawling labyrinth of meeting rooms and exhibition halls, and communication about available entry points to the exhibition site is still sadly absent. But the facilities have improved enormously, with sponsored coffee now appearing in the press room to compete with the paid-for bar, and press events are providing lunch boxes and snacks. Add a packed Showstoppers to conclude the first full press day, complete with exactly the same food menu as appears in Las Vegas, and we could almost imagine we were in Sin City itself. Parts of Berlin, I am told, would possibly qualify for that title.

Formally of course the event organisers remain rivals and regularly trade comparisons of attendee numbers as indications of their relative importance. The inevitable reality is that IFA is heavily Germany- and Europe-centric while CES is American, however many visitors from other parts of the world each attracts. Behind the rivalry they complement each other well, and exhibitors are clearly recognising this by elevating IFA to a more significant role in product introductions over recent years.

As examples today we heard important announcements at Samsung’s event about partnerships in UHD/4K TV broadcasting with Eutelsat and TF1, Philips’ first UHD TVs, a range of upgraded convertible PC form factors from Lenovo, a demonstration of Intel’s new facial recognition technology, a demo of Technicolor’s certified 4K upscaling technology, and an intelligent location-aware audio headset from “Intelligent Headset” of Denmark. More details to follow on some of these key industry trends.

David Mercer

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