It's the first press day of IFA Berlin. And as always it's fascinating and bizarrely organized. On the surface, the 25 buildings are centered around the Sommergarten fairgrounds, which are still under preparation for the show and will be more circus-like when the vendors are all here.
But that's only the surface. The rest of the show is designed by Rube Goldberg. There's an odd order to the halls, and the numbering of any given hall (6.2, for instance) makes things all the more an adventure. But that doesn't even cover finding the halls.
This picture below isn't the back alleys of IFA. It's how you get from Hall 11 to Hall 15. I know because I had to get to Hall 15. Somewhere behind that flotsam is and radio tower (IFA began life 90 years ago as a radio expo) is the hall. Finding the floor and booth is another matter.
I also eventually made it to a press conference for Bosch. That was held in Hall 3. Or to be more accurate, in Hall 3.1. When I went wandering through Hall 3.2 (which is where Panasonic had taken over most of the space, a guard stopped me because apparently they weren't allowing anyone in or to wander through. I explained I was looking for Hall 3.1. "That's the other way," he barked.
And so the other way I went. And eventually found the Bosch area. As befits any self-respecting major housewares manufacturer, they had their Rows of Many Products, for example a wide range of vacuum cleaners. Vacuum cleaners are big at IFA (along with cappuccino makers), and they're also impressive in their gizmodrophy.
Alas, I can't tell you much else. The press conference was held in German, because after all, apparently, only Germans are interested in vacuuming and cooking. I did find out later that Bosch reps were passing out headsets, that offered U.N.-like translations, but no one offered me one when I checked in and spoke with the reps in non-German.
I also had a chance to look around the Toshiba exhibit. The woman at the press desk explained in English that they didn't have anyone who could help us explain the new product line who spoke English. We then walked off and found all the Toshiba reps on our own, all of whom spoke better English than I do.
The company is introducing a very sleek 7" Windows 8.1 tablet that should be coming out in the Fourth Quarter. What's most interesting about this is not just how nice it was, but that it should retail for around $129. And what's remarkable about that is that it includes a one-year subscription (under the company's Office365 plan) of Office 2013. Fine, you see, that's nice to know. But the point is that if you buy Office under this subscription plan normally, on your own, it costs $70. That means you're getting the tablet for...$59!! In fairness, that's not exactly true, since the subscription is only good for a year, but the rep said that you could resubscribe for a reduced rate.
Anyway, I've told the elves back home about all this, and they gave their hearty approval. But I think they're just glad that I'm not around, so they'll approve most anything while I'm away.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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