10 months ago

Review Edition - IFA International

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Exclusive Interview Six

Exclusive Interview Six Megatrends Harman Lifestyle Division EVP Michael Mauser’s take on market evolution According to Michael Mauser, Executive Vice-President Lifestyle Division – HARMAN, there have been six key megatrends at IFA this year. We asked him what they were. The first, the Smartphone and Smart Device Revolution, results from the dramatic increase in sales for smart devices, of which more than 970 million were sold worldwide in 2013 alone, according to Gartner. But as more and more people are using their devices to listen to audio and watch movies, mobile operators, smart device manufacturers and even streaming services are looking for solutions to optimise and enhance the mobile sound experience. The second megatrend is the ongoing revolution of the television market, with devices becoming thinner and thinner and innovative form factors like curved TVs making it harder for manufacturers to deliver good sound. This leads to a continued strong growth of the soundbar and home theatre business. Additionally, wireless and multi-room home systems are set to take off, which is driven by the smart device revolution and the wireless audio megatrend. Another megatrend is the fast-growing sports and wearables market, especially for audio devices. But still, 90% of fitness users are not satisfied with their earphones. There is also a huge shift, away from digital audio sales and downloads and physical sales, to music streaming, which has experienced an increase of 32% in 2013 and last but not least, the demand for high quality HD audio solutions is continuously increasing, with customers asking for better digital audio quality. How is HARMAN responding to these trends? Our highlight of the show was the launch of the harman/kardon OMNI Wireless Multiroom Home System which is setting a new benchmark in this category and segment. Our Omni 10 and Omni 20 wireless HD loudspeakers and the Adapt plug-in to upgrade the existing home stereo system rely on a standard Wi-Fi network and unlike many other wireless streaming systems support 24-bit/96kHz Studio Quality HD audio streaming for a superior audio experience. So our new system represents the ultimate in scalability, upgradeability, and personalisation for home audio entertainment. As a response to the smartphone and smart device revolution, HARMAN has launched highly innovative and best-inclass portable and wireless audio solutions at IFA with next generation products such as the JBL Clip, JBL Charge 2, and Esquire Mini, which should help us to ship more than 8 million portable and wireless devices by November 2014. To enhance the sports and wearables audio experience, we launched our “Yurbuds powered by JBL” earphones for the European market. Additionally, HARMAN has announced partnerships with streaming services to on the one hand include our Clari-Fi and Life Stage solutions and on the other hand to integrate streaming services directly into HARMAN’s Home and Multimedia products. The last megatrend from the IFA 2014, the increasing demand for high quality HD audio solutions, is nothing new for us, since HARMAN products such as the JBL Authentic L16 and harman/ kardon Wireless Multiroom Home System are already “ready for” HD Audio. One of your highlights of the show was the Cinema Base. It is unique in its design, not easily fitting into a category of speakers as it's bigger than other bases. What was the thinking behind the series and what are its key selling points? The JBL Cinema Base was designed to complement flat screens with true bigmovie sound with Dolby Digital and HARMAN Display Surround sound. The form factor is designed to fit under most TVs up to 60-inch. The goal behind the development was to bring room-filling, believable sound to the home theatre viewing experience, all from a 2.2 system that adapts to most TV remotes and fits perfectly under most flat screens. Michael Mauser Executive Vice-President Lifestyle Division, HARMAN (…) the demand for high quality HD audio solutions is continuously increasing (…) Cinema Base 20

Exclusive Interview Curves in All the Right Places IFA 2014’s key TV trend without a doubt, but what’s the upshot of it all? One word summed up IFA 2014: curved. We asked NPD DisplaySearch’s director of European research, Paul Gray, what his take was on this trend… Samsung provided massive promotion of its curved TV range, as it sought to defend and even extend its lead in the European TV market. Its booth provided demonstrations to prove that curved TVs were brighter, offered better viewing angles and richer Retailers appear to be very split on curved sets; some love them, others do not. colours. Scientific claims were made that 4300mm was the optimum curvature and a massive 105-inch 5K 21:9 wowed visitors. All other brands had curved sets on display and generally offered them as premium models, extending the trend seen at CES where curved product concepts were displayed by all the big Chinese brands. We suspect that these are largely defensive products as little effort was being made to build a value proposition around the curvature. Retailers appear to be very split on curved sets; some love them, others do not. However, tactically most retailers will be looking to develop alternative sources to Samsung simply to apply pressure. How do you think this trend will affect the market? We remain unconvinced by the claimed advantages of curved TV and see it as a fashion in the high end. The feature costs around 20% more due to extra processes, more mechanical components and additional shipping costs from a larger box size. It is not a case that process innovation can bring it below a flat panel. We expect that Samsung (and imitators) will use it successfully in the high-end but ultimately the market will bring on a different feature to replace it. We have seen similar fashions in the past, such as picturein-picture video a decade ago. What other major trends did you note in display technologies at IFA? LGE’s OLED screens were bigger than ever and the company fulfilled their promise to demonstrate a 4K 65-inch and 77-inch. The displays looked better than ever, there is still something special about OLED and they were instantly recognisable at a distance. With no visible bright pixel defects, LG Display’s heroic process engineers are working as hard as ever. LGD had also seeded samples to most other brands that had 55-inch OLED concept products. Interestingly only Panasonic showed a 65- inch 4K OLED, suggesting a preferential position amongst LGD’s potential customers. At the same time, quantum dot LCD backlights were visible on many booths and promise to narrow the gap between OLED and LCD performance especially when combined with switchable direct backlights. One has to hope that broadcasters’ wishes to produce content with high dynamic range and deep colour come to fruition in Ultra-HD standards. What about other products? Any that particularly grabbed your attention? Probably the most impressive new product at the show was Samsung’s Galaxy Note Edge. This product really does bring something useful to the consumer by its wraparound screen on the right hand side. Not only is the extra screen useful for discrete notifications, but the image is so bright and sharp on the whole device that it does not look like a display at all – the eye is fooled into it appearing simply to be a printed page. The same high saturation and sharpness was visible on all the handheld OLED displays. Paul Gray Director of European research, NPD DisplaySearch To finish the curved theme, wearables were visible everywhere in the show. LGE showed their impressive-looking G-Watch. IFA visitors crowded the round version (G-Watch R) but seemed much less interested in the rectangular screen version. The launch of ‘Watch’ by Apple looks to fall between the dramatic curved screen edge of Galaxy Note and LGE’s round screen product which looks like a robust diver’s watch. IFA International • Friday 19 th September 2014 21

IFA International