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IFA: Digital Humanism, and other themes

IFAThe dust has settled on the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin. The stands have been folded away, the crowds have dispersed, and the exciting new products have been packed up (see our New Products blog for the lowdown on the most exciting launches).

Now it's time to reflect on the themes of the show, and what they tell us about the state of the industry.

Well, one thing we can say is that the high-tech industry doesn't seem to be cowering from the recession. Bluster and bravado it may have been, but the show was as well manned, attended and covered as ever, and the high-end stands were just as ludicrously extravagant as last year.

IFA 09 entrance

Samsung, Panasonic and Sony were stand-outs, as might be expected. Sony darkened its area and filled it with 3D TVs, games systems and (for some reason) gifted football-jugglers. Samsung had a rotating cast of ballgown-wearing dolly-birds (with apologies to the ladies in question), not to mention floor-to-ceiling displays and mirrors on every surface. Panasonic went for the '10-foot-tall killer robot' angle.

You could also see break-dancers, BMX stuntmen, a ball-pit challenge and the popular singer Lady Gaga (oddly enough), as the various companies vied aggressively for the attention of jaded and excitement-starved journalists and civilians.

Samsung stand

'Digital Humanism': Customer focus, or sentimental fluff?

But the message coming from the keynote speakers was a quieter one.

Yoon Boo-keun, president of the display unit at Samsung, gave a speech based around a concept he called 'Digital Humanism'. IT companies need to listen to customers, he said; they need to create an emotional attachment to products. He specifically compared the ideal customer response to a high-tech product to the misty-eyed feeling you get when reading a handwritten letter from your granddaughter.

Even more shocking, the Samsung executive revealed (or rather, claimed) that the decision to add an attractive and subtle red edging to Samsung flat-panels was inspired by a dressing-down from his wife about his company's dull-looking lifestyle products. "When my wife talks, I listen," he joked.

Next page: Emotional products and listening to customers >>

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