IFA 2008: a heady mix of late nights, keynote speeches and emotional rhetoric
The first full day of IFA 2008 is no place for the fainthearted. Manufacturers, journalists, carpenters and assorted enablers may have been hard at it in the Internationales Congress Centrum in Berlin since Wednesday, but today's the first day of public exhibition and, frankly, more than a few people are looking a bit frayed around the edges.
The heady combination of days of hard work and nights of equally hard drinking were certainly in evidence at Samsung's keynote speech this morning. The assembled audience was an exotic selection of hungover journalists, rabidly enthusiastic salarymen and photographers unperturbed by getting right in everyone else's way. A pungent mixture of body odour and aftershave hung heavy in the air.
The keynote speech was delivered by Dr Jongwoo Park, President of Samsung Electronics. Given the wildly dramatic music accompanying him on his way to the stage, I was expecting some kind of Jedi Knight - but Dr Park turns out to be an affable and eloquent Korean businessman.
Despite the distraction of snickering sycophants in the audience falling about at his mildly amusing asides, Dr Park delivered an engaging speech laced with only slightly too much corporate rhetoric. "Emotional" is not a word I'd readily use to describe an owner's connection with his TV, but Dr Park seems convinced that the bond between man and machine can be transcendental. "Unmatched pleasure for your senses" he promised - clearly a man who's never spent a weekend at Foam Rubber World.
The most focussed aspect of a pretty focussed speech was his ambition to unite product, network, content and user as cleanly and simply as possible - "the digital renaissance", he called it. Identifying "digital fatigue" (the bone-wearying effect of too much complicated technology in our homes) and the "digital divide" (aged consumers and emergent economies being left behind in technology's remorseless forward thrust) showed rigorous thinking too.
But why is it that electronics companies - because it's not only Samsung - think the pinnacle of an integrated home network is the availability of up-to-date share prices on your TV screen?
After 45 minutes of heavyweight trumpet-blowing, Dr Park left the stage. He was accompanied by a round of applause from the Samsung contingent that wouldn't have shamed a Wembley Arena audience. The journalists groaned and nursed their heads, and the photographers got in everybody's way.