HOT FROM IFA BERLIN
8K TVs, corrective audio, Yamaha’s full 5000 Series and more!
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.)
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.
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.
▲ 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.