OLED TVs, connected devices to be highlight at Euro tech fair
By Kim Yoo-chul
DUBROVNIK, Croatia ― Organic light emitting diode (OLED) televisions have been the electronics sector’s equivalent of a manned mission to Mars: A sexy concept derailed by technological and financial feasibility questions.
Nonetheless, technology giants participating in this year’s IFA trade show will try to convince the world once again that these futuristic flat-screens with super-sharp picture quality are here for real.
IFA organizers predict this year’s program to be highlighted by OLED televisions and a breadth of Internet-connected devices, which no longer include only smartphones and computers, but also cameras, televisions and household appliances.
Korean technology giants Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics have been major movers and shakers in consumer electronics and mobile devices in recent years, and they will be competing to impress at the upcoming IFA in Berlin.
Officials from both companies agree that OLED televisions will be the focus for bragging rights between them in the coming months.
``The IFA is the trendsetter, a platform for innovation and a pathfinder for market trends. The most important objective for the industry and trade this year is the destruction of existing values and the creation of new ones,’’ said Rainer Hecker, chairman of the supervisory board of gfu, IFA’s chief organizer, at the recent IFA Global Press Conference in the Croatian resort city of Dubrovnik.
Around 300 journalists from 53 nations were present at the event.
Technology companies around the world will spend $1.1 trillion to display and market their products at this year’s IFA, up from $1 trillion spent by firms that participated last year, Hecker said.
``The market will continue to grow and this will be driven by emerging markets,’’ he said.
IFA organizers have identified six trends to summarize the products and technologies to be showcased at this year’s event, scheduled in the German capital from Aug. 31 to Sept. 5. Products are becoming increasingly Web-connected, individually customized, converging in function and use, packing powerful communication capabilities, and equipped with improved displays.
While Samsung and LG are eager to promote their next-generation televisions, the declining demand for products in developed regions such as Europe and North America, which are facing economic uncertainty, remains a concern.
Jurgen Boyny, global director of consumer electronics at GfK retail and technology, said in a separate news conference that the global electronics market was increasingly being influenced by consumer trends in emerging economies, where the growth in sales has been more visible.
``Consumer spending is shifting continuously toward the side of emerging markets. Tablet computers and smartphones are pushing the markets there. But this also means that the overall television market is losing momentum,’’ he said.
GfK expects the global market for televisions to be around $262 billion this year, virtually identical to last year’s $260 billion.
However, the growth in televisions supporting three-dimensional (3D) images will grow by 122 percent, GfK said, while the market for Web-connected televisions will grow by 56 percent. The market for light emitting diode (LED) backlit liquid crystal display (LCD) televisions will grow by 33 percent.
Perhaps, this is a prediction that pleases LG, which is experiencing growing acceptance of its 3D televisions based on its patent thin-film technology, which it says provides sharper pictures with less overlaps.
Boyny believes that Internet connectivity will become a conventional feature for flat-screen televisions from now on.
``In 2013, more than 40 percent of all TVs will have an Internet connection, though the challenge of connected TV is endless content. In this year, more than 1.1 billion devices are with direct Internet connections,’’ he said.
Samsung, LG set to steal the show
Samsung and LG these days garner most attention in trade fairs that don’t involve Apple, and this year’s IFA is no exception.
Samsung plans to unveil a large-screen OLED television with Internet connectivity, while LG will focus on OLED televisions that are cheaper and thus have a better chance at becoming mainstream products.
Samsung and LG are also determined to promote their mobile Internet devices in Berlin, looking to showcase a variety of smartphones, touch-screen tablets and other gadgets.
``We can’t unveil details about products to be exhibited by the Korean companies. However, one thing that I can confirm is that most of their products to be shown at the IFA will be Internet-enabled,’’ said a senior official from the IFA organizing committee.
Samsung’s Galaxy S III smartphone, which features the company’s own Exynos mobile access points and OLED screens, was among the products confirmed to be featured at IFA.
``There is a debt crisis in some European countries _ Ireland and Portugal and I think it’s all about communication,’’ said Christian Goke, chief operating officer (COO) of Messe Berlin.
``The crisis in Europe isn’t comparable with the United States and Asia as there are structural fundamental differences between those markets. But the key point is that major tech companies see this year as the right chance to bolster their product profile,’’ he said, anticipating global demand for digital products to rebound.
While Japanese brands Sony, Toshiba, Panasonic and Sharp have highlighted technology fairs for decades, they have seemed to carry lesser clout than their Korean rivals in recent years.
``It’s true that these firms are suffering. But they have very innovative products. The market for electronics in Japan is very healthy,’’ said Goke.
While tablets have been the new star of the technology industry since the release of the iPad, the challenge for electronics makers is to develop more customized content for the touch-screen devices.
``Tablets as compared to PCs have no future unless producers think outside the box and develop killer software,’’ said one industry source, saying that the users of tablets aren’t using the devices yet for productive reasons other than to be seen with them.
``Apple is the only tablet maker that is successful because Apple tells its customers why they need the iPad. Apple owns the entire value chain of its products from hardware to software and so has been able to lock-in its customers,’’ said the source.