HOT FROM IFA BERLIN

8K TVs, cor­rec­tive au­dio, Yamaha’s full 5000 Se­ries and more!

Sound+Image - - Contents -

IFA 2018, “the Global In­no­va­tions Show” as it’s cur­rently tagged, the lead­ing show­case for the global tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try, de­liv­ered on its prom­ise of both more prod­uct launches than any pre­vi­ous event, and more dig­i­tal life­style prod­ucts in one place than any other show world­wide.

The open­ing con­fer­ence took place in the theatre of the dra­matic ‘IFA Next’ hall, opened last year (and this year ex­panded) to high­light start-up com­pa­nies and in­no­va­tion. The three key pre­sen­ters were Hans-Joachim Kamp, Chair­man of gfu; Dr Reinhard Zinkann Jr, ap­pear­ing in his role with ZVEI and CECED but also Miele’s Joint Man­ag­ing Part­ner; and Dr Christian Göke, the en­er­getic CEO of Messe Berlin. The lat­est regeneration of Ms IFA (see p12) was also in at­ten­dance.

Mr Kamp was heavy on GfK sta­tis­tics, with some in­ter­est­ing in­sights into the global TV mar­ket, which grew 1% in the first half of 2018 to a to­tal value of €45 bil­lion, with an ex­pected to­tal of 238 mil­lion units glob­ally for the year.

Two in­ter­est­ing trends — firstly that the mar­ket is be­ing driven by high-end TVs, smart and con­nected, with larger screen sizes show­ing strong­est growth, and half of to­tal sales in the first half of 2018 com­ing from screen sizes of 50 inches and up.

OLED was “the win­ning dis­play tech­nol­ogy in the pre­mium price tier”, though as yet OLED has just 1% of the to­tal TV mar­ket (“the cream of the cream”, as IHS Markit’s Paul Gray de­scribes it). The FIFA World Cup soc­cer was con­sid­ered to have played its part in spurring ad­di­tional sales dur­ing 2018.

And just look at the fig­ures be­hind Mr Kamp in the image above, show­ing how the TV mar­ket value splits around the world. Europe buys 22%, the United States 21%, but China now equals those mar­kets at 22%. In­deed in unit terms China’s share rises to a stag­ger­ing 36%, an in­di­ca­tion of the lower prices there preva­lent. (Mr Gray, whis­per­ing in our ear, in­formed us that TVs are pretty much ‘break-even’ com­modi­ties in China for sizes up to 55 inches, with the prof­its com­ing only from 65-inch TVs and up.)

SMARTER AU­DIO

The global au­dio de­vices mar­ket grew 5% in the first half of 2018, though only to a tenth of to­tal TV sales at €4.5 bil­lion, with strong up­ward trends in head­phones and head­sets, and of course in smart speak­ers and multiroom-con­nected units. Multiroom de­vices now ac­count for a re­mark­able 23% of to­tal turnover in au­dio home sys­tems world­wide, ac­cord­ing to GfK fig­ures. (We should note from our Aus­tralian per­spec­tive that GfK’s Aus­tralian data is lim­ited and/or es­ti­mated, since it does not re­ceive re­turns from the ma­jor re­tail chains here.)

Cer­tain au­dio cat­e­gories are grow­ing at a phe­nom­e­nal rate, and it’s no sur­prise to find Blue­tooth wire­less head­phones among these, now rep­re­sent­ing 60% of all head­phones sales, up from 42% the pre­vi­ous year, a growth of 80% for this sec­tor.

Dig­i­tal ra­dio sales were up 3%, though this was as­sisted by ‘ana­logue switch-off’ ap­proach­ing or ac­tu­ally oc­cur­ring in var­i­ous mar­kets. Nor­way switched off FM this year, and the UK is still promis­ing to do so.

And voice con­trol is al­ready ac­count­ing for 6% of au­dio de­vice sales, ris­ing with tripledigit growth from the low base of last year.

Dr Christian Göke, CFO of Messe Berlin, the or­gan­is­ers of IFA, de­liv­ered the mes­sage of IFA it­self, not only the com­mer­cial mes­sage of more floor space and exhibitors than ever be­fore, but also speak­ing out about the dan­gers of in­ter­na­tional trade wars and tar­iffs as a dis­rup­tor to growth in all elec­tronic in­dus­tries. In­no­va­tion as a dis­rup­tor was rather more wel­come, he said, rein­vent­ing old prod­ucts or re­plac­ing them with new ex­pe­ri­ences. He high­lighted four key in­no­va­tion dis­rup­tors cur­rently trans­form­ing elec­tron­ics — 5G mo­bile plat­forms, the In­ter­net of Things, voice con­trol, and smart speak­ers.

VOICE CON­TROL

Re­gard­ing voice con­trol, Sound+Image asked a ques­tion from the floor dur­ing the sub­se­quent Q&A panel, as to how the cur­rent for­mat war be­tween Google Voice As­sis­tant and Ama­zon’s Alexa was play­ing out in­ter­na­tion­ally, and whether con­sumers de­cid­ing be­tween ecosys­tems might pro­vide a brake on de­vel­op­ment, as in pre­vi­ous for­mat wars.

Mr Kamp re­sponded that he con­sid­ers voice con­trol to be less a for­mat war than a sim­ple con­sumer choice, while Messe Berlin’s clever Jens Hei­thecker re­sponded with a smile that the IFA 2018 ex­hi­bi­tion would pro­vide the per­fect op­por­tu­nity for con­sumers to in­ves­ti­gate both op­tions, since the ex­hi­bi­tion is brim­ming with ex­am­ples of prod­ucts us­ing both sys­tems!

Mr Kamp also played down the po­ten­tial is­sue of pri­vacy con­cerns re­gard­ing ‘al­ways-lis­ten­ing’ voice as­sis­tants. See­ing teenagers to­day sim­ply click­ing through ev­ery pri­vacy warn­ing, he pre­dicts that as these young con­sumers grow to be the dom­i­nant con­sumers of the fu­ture, pri­vacy con­cerns may be a thing of the past. (Sound+Image is alarmed by this prospect, and hopes that teenagers reach­ing ma­tu­rity will gain a great sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity.)

An­other in­ter­est­ing re­sponse was that the two sys­tems have dif­fer­ent pri­or­i­ties, Alexa hav­ing de­vel­oped as a driver for Ama­zon’s re­tail plat­form, while Google’s came from IT with more of an op­er­at­ing sys­tem ba­sis be­hind it. It was also sug­gested that although Google and Alexa prod­ucts cur­rently rep­re­sent half the voice as­sis­tant mar­ket, a full 50% were us­ing al­ter­na­tive voice plat­forms.

(Photo source: Bun­de­sarchiv)

▲ TOP: ‘IFA Next’ is an in­no­va­tion hall which has dou­bled in size since its de­but last year; dur­ing IFA 2018 it hosted a se­ries of pre­sen­ta­tions and ex­hivi­tions in­clud­ing a chess match with for­mer world chess cham­pion Garry Kas­parov, speak­ing on the chal­lenges aris­ing from the pro­lif­er­a­tion of AI in his role as Avast Se­cu­rity Am­bas­sador.▲ BOT­TOM: Al­bert Ein­stein opened IFA in 1930, then the 7th ‘Great Ger­man Ra­dio and Phono­graph Show’, at which the first demo model of a “tele­vi­sion re­ceiver” made its pub­lic de­but, the ba­sis of Loewe’s claim to­day to be “the in­ven­tor of tele­vi­sion”. For some­what more cur­rent Loewe news from IFA, see p20.

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