IFA 2013: Five things you need to know
IFA Berlin is the global technology show that gives some of the biggest players in the industry a platform on which to launch and showcase the set of devices that will carry them into the key Christmas trading period. Here are my five key things I think you need to know.
IFA 2013: Five things you need to know
This year has not disappointed, with many of the global tech giants launching new products from the show, trying, perhaps, to steal a march on Apple’s announcements that are coming next week. I’ve been dashing from hall-to-hall to take it all in.
1. Smart watches won’t go mainstream yet, but the race to develop the one that buyers love has started. ??Samsung launched its highly anticipated Galaxy Gear smart watch on day one of IFA. Since wearable technology is generally considered to be the next frontier of technology, it’s not surprising they’ve made a foray into it, leveraging the power of the Galaxy brand.
But it’s big, it is reliant on connecting to a Samsung Galaxy phone, and, as such, it’s really an interesting but probably superfluous remote control for a smartphone. The value in launching a product which has narrow appeal now may be in starting to build latent demand for a smart watch that is smaller, sleeker and can operate as a stand-alone device that many more of us would be happy to put on our wrists.?
2. Smartphones are realising their promise as high-end media devices. ??The launch of Sony’s Xperia Z1 and Z Ultra, the Galaxy Note 3 and LG G2 push the development of high end smartphones in a clear direction: bigger, HD-like screens, almighty computing power, high-end content capture capabilities, and 4G connectivity. ??When these come together, smart phones are realising their potential as rich media consumption and capture devices.
Though areas like mobile video have arguably been nascent, we are seeing the arrival of devices that are good enough to watch long-form content on. And potentially the catalyst for mobiles to become more of a rich vehicle for brand advertising.?
3. The future of computing is portable and hybrid.
The plethora of tablets and hybrid, touch-screen laptops unveiled at IFA this year make it clear that the wired-in desktop PC is a relic, especially in our homes, and modern computers need to balance media consumption and productivity. There’s arguably been the most new technology unveiled in this category at IFA this year.
The Panasonic’s 20inch 4K ultra HD tablet, LG’s 8-inch G Pad tablet, HP’s Envy Recline hybrid tablet-notebook, the new Asus Transformer Pad and the Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga 2 Pro hybrid with a stunning high-res screen, being examples.??The consequence is that users will, particularly in their homes, have a set of portable devices (phone, tablet, hybrid notebook) that they share around the household and flip between depending on the task at hand. Beyond getting mobile ready, brands will need to think carefully about how they design the user experience and functionality of sites and apps based on what users expect from them on each device. And how user journeys are seamless when they switch from consumption, to play, shopping or productivity across devices in ‘user session’. ?
4. We’re gearing up our living rooms, and the TV is still king.
The most eye-catchingly impressive technology on show for me has been large, ultra HD TVs. Every major manufacturer has their take, whether it’s LG’s curved OLED or Samsung’s huge and impressive 110inch UHD 4K screen. Alongside the growth in size and picture quality that manufacturers will be driving, they are also each launching complementary services and devices to help us entrench the TV as the media hub of the home. These services include media storage and streaming boxes; mobile sync and remote control tools; and, of course, next generation immersive gaming and media devices like the Playstation 4.
For better or worse, bigger and more beautiful TV screens are the totems of our living room, the devices we hero, and point everything in the room towards. So much so the LG have literally launched a variant of a TV that comes within its own picture frame. And it reinforces the role that TV will continue to play an even richer and more powerful role to deliver brand advertising. It does also strike me that, when business and distribution models change, we are reaching the point when cinema is finally ripe for disruption, as high end TV screens deliver experiences that are arguably as rich and impressive as the big screen.?
5. The next battle in TV will be in software and user experience.
Of course, every new TV or supporting technology showcased at IFA assumes some form of Internet connectivity as a default. As users get more familiar with the TV as an Internet device, the battle for control of the IP-TV generation will not necessarily be about hardware, but about who can best design and distribute the software layer in TV that best builds Internet-like user experience on our screens.??
A relatively low-key product caught my attention at IFA this year: LG have developed a smart TV that runs on a variant of Android OS. There has been much talk about how the likes of Apple, Google and Microsoft (all absent at IFA this year it should be said) will disrupt TV. And this LG TV points towards how they may do it: not by making TV’s themselves, but by shaping software and user interface design within TVs, or on the devices we connect to them.
Given the importance of TV in brand-building, the eventual outcome could have quite significant implications (and open up new opportunities) for how we target users, deliver advertising , and build brand experiences within Internet-driven TV.
Mark Holden is head of futures at Havas' Arena
This article was first published on mediaweek.co.uk
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