Samsung’s morning IFA press conference, titled ‘Discover a World of Possibilities’, was so attractive to media that by the time president and CEO BK Yoon took the stage to launch this expedition there were at least 200 journalists stranded outside watching on TVs set up to relay the presentation.
That there were more scribes prepared to stand outside than watch any other press conference over the two media days. The topic of this presentation was home appliances, demonstrating Samsung’s incredible mind share in technology across the whole home – it’s one thing to pack a room for a smartwatch but for refrigerators and washing machines?
Yoon started by demonstrating why Samsung has this magnetic pull: its home appliances business has grown 20 times faster than European market, he said, a penetration that has grown from Korean incursion to category captain.
“We have been in Europe for more than 30 years and have deep roots here,” Yoon said. “We are proud to play a very active role. Across the region, we are creating technology institutes to train and inspire Europe’s next generation of technology leaders.”
On the stage, which Samsung had mocked up to be a living room, were kitchen and laundry appliances and a vacuum cleaner. Despite this clear appliance focus, the theme reverted to Samsung’s type when Hans Wienands, executive vice president of Samsung Europe took the stage to talk Ultra HD TVs and Samsung’s Smart Hub.
He said the combination of voice and gesture controls with Samsung’s diverse content streaming platforms created an unrivalled home entertainment experience.
Sport was also a big talking point: the race to plant apps to stream live sport, directly from the competition organiser (UEFA in Europe or, say, the NRL or AFL in Australia), circumventing the traditional broadcaster, is fierce. Samsung clearly sees this as a major draw for new purchasers eschewing traditional terrestrial and pay TV operators.
“The future is not just about sport,” Wienands said. “Our customers also want unrivalled picture quality.”
After beginning the traditional throw back to when TVs were functional boxes, Samsung then introduced us to the future: its 55-inch Curved OLED TV.
“This is great for an immersive, cinematic experience. When the pixels are not active, they are pitch black. With multiview, two people can watch two different programs in Full HD or 3D at the same time on the full screen.”
It shows how quickly the market moves and technology innovations become yesterday’s news that both the Curved OLED and the next flagship, Samsung Ultra HD, already appeared dated to the audience. We have come to expect so much from Samsung that anything less than 8k is somewhat tired.
But we are only at the start of the 4k revolution and Samsung, naturally, is cementing its credentials. Whether native 4k or upscaling, Samsung claims it has the best picture quality. It also claims that its big screen Ultra HD TVs are “future proof”, which seems an audacious claim considering more pixels will eventually come to film recording and playback.
Where Samsung did surprise was in announcing that it will soon orchestrate the first native Ultra HD broadcast, from satellite to the TV’s built-in receiver, at least in Europe.
For an Australian who covered the retail launch of the F9000 in Sydney last week, it was amusing to hear of whoops when Samsung confirmed that this model is now being released throughout Europe.
The home entertainment component of the launch concluded with Samsung announcing that it now had a prototype Ultra HD OLED TV – Sony and Panasonic unveiled theirs in Las Vegas in January – though nothing more was said about this model, indicating there will be some wait before it goes to market; Samsung generally only likes to talk at length about products that have imminent release dates.
To appliances, where Samsung has taken the bezel designs from its TVs and transplanted them onto its new washing machines. The style continues in cooking, where Samsung has partnered with a clique of chefs to promote its cooking credentials.
These chefs are working with Samsung to improve its cooking appliances, including “intensive workshops in Seoul” to create new recipes for Samsung ovens
“Samsung is the first appliance brand to integrate the skills of world class chefs into its R&D,” said a spokesperson in a statement that is sure to be contested by virtually every appliance brand in the world.
Style continued to be the major home appliance theme when Samsung brought on to the stage two Italian designers working with the company to create new experiences for users.
It was not lost on this reporter that Samsung’s focus both at this press conference and the Unpacked event that while features and technology is the focus of Samsung’s consumer electronics launches, there was no word of functionality during its discussion on cooking and laundry appliances – only design and partnerships were covered.
Interestingly, when it came to Samsung floorcare, the tone shifted back to technology. The new Samsung Motion Sync canister vacuum has “swift”, “smooth” and “stable” motion through its swivel body, a cyclonic action and a “sponge” type filter.
In the kitchen, Samsung confirmed the news Appliance Retailer revealed yesterday: the FoodShowcase refrigerator, which will have an outer door with a traditional façade; when opened it revealed a transparent door – like a drinks fridge in a milkbar – so users can see what is inside the fridge without adversely affecting the cavity temperature.