Berlin is once again welcoming consumers to consume as many electronics as they possibly can during the six-day IFA international consumer electronics show, which opens on Friday.
The show, the second oldest in Germany, was launched in 1924 when Germany was emerging as a force in the nascent consumer electronics industry. Although there's not much left of that industry in Germany today, Berlin has remained a centre stage for showcasing new products and trends.
This year's show, which is now an annual event, aims to continue that tradition.
As always, television will bask in the limelight. Flat is the name of the game in home TV entertainment. Whether LCD or plasma, flat-panel TVs are rapidly replacing old-fashioned CRT sets. And the panels are getting bigger and better: if 32in sets dominated sales last year, make way for 42in and even 52in sets as panel technology soars ahead. And technology from companies such as Sharp promises to eliminate the comet-like trails that occasionally follow fast-moving objects in images.
Many of the TVs on display in Berlin will be HD (high-definition). At last year's show, Samsung raised the bar for HDTV quality with its new TFT (thin-film transistor) LCD TV, offering 1,920x1,080 pixel resolution and a 16:9 screen ratio, and supporting 1,080 progressive scanning – twice the quality of a 1,080 interlaced display.
If the World Cup in Germany earlier this year whetted consumers' appetites for HDTV, manufacturers hope other big sporting events, such as Euro 2008, will make them even hungrier to invest in the new technology.
Apropos TV: for those who can't be without it, the industry is now delivering some nifty handsets to view live broadcasts on the run. A few debuted during the World Cup, including Samsung's SGH-P900D phone, based on the DMB (digital multimedia broadcasting) standard. That phone and others, including handsets based on the rival DVB-H (digital video broadcasting – handheld) standard, will be on display.
Storage will be another theme, with the long-running battle between the two optical-disc formats, Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD, to shift to Berlin as rival camps lobby for their incompatible formats for playing movies.
The battle pits the slightly less expensive HD-DVD, which stores 30GB of data, against Blu-ray, at 50GB. And it brings some big names to the ring: Intel, Microsoft, NEC and Toshiba are among the backers of HD-DVD, while Sony, Panasonic, Dell, HP, Apple and Philips are entrenched in the Blu-ray camp.
Even if Philips, which helped invent the CD, will hoist its Blu-ray flag in Berlin, the company plans to use the show – traditionally one of its favourites – to show many of its consumer electronic products and innovations from its labs. The company will demonstrate its 'Lumalive' technology, for example, which integrates LEDs into fabrics. With an eye to gamers, it also plans to unveil an entertainment device that looks much like one of those old game boards but is equipped with a 32in horizontal LCD, touch screen and internet connectivity.
More information about IFA – the letters stand for Internationale Funkausstellung, although the full name is rarely used these days – is available here.