Consumer Electronics Expo Kicks off in Berlin

Europe's biggest consumer-electronics show, the Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA), kicks off in Berlin this week

The show runs from Friday until next Wednesday, Sept. 3. Last year's event attracted 1,200 companies and 222,000 attendees over its run and organizers expect the 2008 event will be just as big. Exhibits will be mounted in over 30 halls, but for many the digital living room will be a prime attraction.

With healthy broadband penetration, wide availability of digital TV, and the victory of Blu-ray Disc in the high-def disc format battle the stage is set for the industry's biggest names to unveil the next step in networked home entertainment.

Some of the services likely to arrive in Europe can already be spotted in North America. Sony, for example, has begun offering an Internet set-top box add-on to its Bravia TV sets that allows them to receive streaming video content from sites such as YouTube. The company recently announced plans to begin streaming movies direct to its televisions before they hit DVD.

This week at IFA some major announcements are expected from Sony, which has the single largest booth at the show and is aggressively advertising to visitors with posters at Berlin's airports and on access roads into the city. At least one announcement is likely to be the launch of its 11-inch OLED (organic light emitting diode) television for the European market. The set is already on sale in Japan and the U.S.

Alongside the small OLED set are likely to be monster plasma and LCD (liquid crystal display) TVs from many of the world's biggest TV makers. Few are giving away their plans for the show but some, such as Japan's Sharp, have hinted that major new products will be unveiled.

In the computing space visitors can look forward to more low-cost laptops. The sector has seen a mass of companies rush in over the last few months and at IFA Japan's Fujitsu will officially join the party with its Amilo machine. With HP and Acer starting to compete against each other on price in the U.S., the market is getting a lot more competitive so Fujitsu's price for the Amilo will be closely watched.

Among products already announced as being unveiled at IFA is a network attached storage device from South Korea's LG. The system will automatically back up your pictures, files and home movies onto a central disk storage server so you can access it from all of your PCs. Taiwan's HTC is using IFA to unveil its new S740 smartphone that will go on sale later this year in Europe and Sanyo is promising an entry-level full high-def video projector.

Next year's IFA will run from Sept. 4 until Sept. 9 in Berlin.

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