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TVs, PCs fight for living room space at tech fair

Internet TV, mobile TV and video on demand may be hot topics but when it comes to buying decisions at this week's IFA electronics fair, television sets are bigger business than ever.
/ Source: Reuters

Internet TV, mobile TV and video on demand may be the talk of the technology sector but when it comes to buying decisions at this week's IFA electronics fair, television sets are set to be bigger business than ever.

Exhibitors from around the world will descend on Berlin hoping to tempt almost a quarter of a million visitors expected at the show to upgrade to slimmer, sleeker TV sets promising sharper pictures and helped by rapidly falling prices.

"Glass, in the form of TVs, is going to be huge again," says Gartner analyst Mike McGuire. "I don't see the TV losing the space in the living room just yet."

Globally, more than 200 million TV sets are expected to be sold this year, worth about $115 billion, or more than a third of total consumer electronics sales. Of those, most will still be traditional curved-screen cathode-ray tube TVs.

Electronics manufacturers are hoping a looming cut-off of analogue TV signals in the United States, Europe and parts of Japan together with slowly starting high-definition TV (HDTV) broadcasts will persuade consumers to exchange their old sets.

Thin-screen LCD or plasma versions are on average five times more expensive.

PC-based systems
A TV from Grundig that can be watched outdoors and a Loewe HDTV that can communicate with digital cameras, MP3 players and PC networks will be among the thousands of models on display at Europe's biggest consumer electronics fair.

In time, though, televisions, hi-fis and other analogue equipment are expected to be replaced by PC-based systems. Gartner estimates this will take another three to four years. By that time, most market researchers expect TV set sales to begin falling.

That development is being pushed not only by PC makers such as Hewlett-Packard or Fujitsu-Siemens who have been offering complete home-entertainment systems for years, but also telecoms operators keen to enter a new market.

Video via the Web
This year's IFA will include a day-long conference on IPTV, which is still being held back by limited broadband delivery capacity and content rights issues. Deutsche Telekom's stand display will focus on IPTV.

While frenzied demand for hot consumer electronics products such as MP3 portable music players has slowed this year, PC sales are reviving.

Makers of video games consoles are also vying for their devices to take a central place in the living room while the portable versions are gaining new features.

Sony, for example, is expanding a planned video download service for its PlayStation Portable and aims to start selling an accessory next year that will turn it into a satellite navigation device.

Navigation devices themselves, meantime, are becoming much more than route finders: iPublish will be showing off its Merian Scout Navigator that comes complete with audio guides that automatically play when you pass a place of interest.

Gartner's McGuire says the new generation of young adults will drive a move away from TV-centered homes.

"If you're a young adult who grew up playing on a PlayStation 3 it's easier conceptually to add on features, it's a kind of logical extension if those subsystems perform well," he says. "They're a kind of Trojan Horse into the living room."

The IFA opens to the public on August 31 and runs until Sept 5.