IFA Berlin: From OLED TVs to e-lederhosen

The curtain rises Wednesday on the German gadget gala, promising the very latest in consumer electronics. What will be the ubergadget?

Tech Culture

BERLIN--The global gadget tour touches down this week here in the German capital, having wound its way through Las Vegas and Taipei, and before it heads off to Tokyo.

IFA, which stands for Internationale Funkausstellung, kicks off Wednesday afternoon. In terms of attendance, IFA Berlin is the largest consumer electronics trade show in the world. Like its American counterpart, the Consumer Electronics Show held every January in Las Vegas, it's a place for names large and small in consumer electronics to roll out their latest gizmos so the public, journalists, analysts, and retailers can eye them up close.

For an idea of just how big it is, IFA Berlin in 2008 took up 1.3 million square feet of exhibit space, and brought 215,000 visitors through the doors of the Berlin Messe to see more than 1,200 exhibitors. CES this year had a lower-than-expected attendance of 110,000, 1.7 million square feet of exhibitor space, and 2,700 exhibitors.

Miss IFA 2009
Euro-styling: Miss IFA 2009 shows off the Dyson DC26 vacuum cleaner. IFA

IFA brings out the big names you'd expect like Samsung, Sony, LG, Nokia, Acer, Asus, and more, plus hundreds of smaller companies that make computers and gadgets just for the European market. We'll try to highlight the notable stuff that will be available in North America as well.

IFA has been around in some form since 1926, and has an interesting, if dark footnote. It was originally organized as a radio exposition. Because it was a local event, IFA found itself a tool of the extreme right in 1933. Chief Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels used it as the platform to introduce the Volksempfaenger, a propaganda radio that was designed to receive only local radio stations, while blocking out broadcasts from foreign news agencies, like the BBC.

In the 70 years since, IFA has expanded far beyond radios and politics to include everything from TVs to portable media players, energy-efficient washing machines, Netbooks, and even electronic lederhosen.

The show's ubergadget?
This year we suspect we'll see more of what we spotted at CES several months ago, plus hopefully a few surprises: networked Blu-ray players, more superthin LED TVs, and maybe even some larger OLED TVs. We'll be looking out to see if anyone here can outdo the very buzzworthy LG watch phone, which stole the show back in January.

Toshiba announced earlier this month that it would make its first Blu-ray Disc products more than a year after closing down its HD DVD efforts. Toshiba has said it will make DVD players, high-definition TVs, and laptops that support the HD video standard. The company could be planning to use this show to launch them.

The IFA show floor has been known to showcase legal dramas, as well. Last year, German customs agents seized more than 100 TVs and media players from the Hyundai booth due to a licensing problem involving the Korean manufacturer. And a few years before that, SanDisk and 18 other companies had some of their products seized in an MP3 technology patent dispute.

We'll be sure to keep an eye out for any legal maneuvering this year by competitors in the field.

The gadget expo officially opens to the public Friday, but there will be a parade of press conferences beginning Wednesday evening. If you see anything from the show we haven't covered, or you have something in mind you'd like to see, please leave a note in the comments.

Autoplay: ON Autoplay: OFF