IFA Berlin is the biggest consumer electronics show in the world, even bigger than CES in Las Vegas. A big difference between the two events is that the appliance sector joins the show (since a several years, after the demise of the trade-only shows in Paris and Cologne). And, being in Germany, the German brands dominate the show. Naturally the two BSH brands Bosch and Siemens occupy the largest booths, but Miele and Electrolux (with main German brand AEG) have always completed the event. Since the appliance sector joined IFA, Whirlpool has shunned the event. Word is that they saw Milan (Eurocucina) as their main show. Last year there was a small trade-only event (IFA is trade as well as consumers) which indicated that they could be changing their mind. And this year, finally, they went all the way by sending their German Bauknecht brand over for the first time. This brand is already present on the Cologne kitchen fair, every two years.
Siemens always opens the fair on the first press day. Then comes Miele and after that Bosch. Being sister brands Siemens and Bosch always share a lot of news, and this year it was not different. Both showed a totally new built-in product line, mainly a redesigned platform where the design and the user interface are new. Siemens calls it IQ700 and at Bosch it is labeled Serie 8. Where Siemens went for the typical reduced design language, Bosch framed a large rotary knob within a larger rectangular shape, containing buttons as well as TFT touch screens. Original is the shape of the knob: it is actually a ring and there is a small display in the middle.
The new user interface for both brands is more or less the same and is a mix of touch screen buttons and rotary actions. Generally the detail values (time, temperature) are set by the knob and the main choices are done by touch screen buttons, in plain language and not in symbols. It is well designed (this is Germany, remember) and very easy to use: anyone who has a smartphone or tablet will have no problem at all. The manual and also the automatic programs are clearly visualized and the details are easy to find and understand.
The design of the stands also tells a story. In the past Bosch centered around a famous cook who demonstrated his skills, and the rest of the stand was quite product-oriented, somewhat like a department store, with some informal decoration inspired by different foods. This fits the brand profile, geared towards family and partnership; Bosch is your reliable and omnipresent partner in the household. Siemens has always been more high-tech, geared towards features en technology, for couples in an urban environment. The stand was always very reduced: straight lines, clearly in the modernist German tradition. Now, Bosch changed the layout towards the new ovens in the center, with two large streets opening up to the central cooking area. It is now more one large space with better overview. The Siemens stand now shows much more angular shapes, less formal, and the design is clearly inspired by famous Berlin architect Liebeskind, who built the Jewish museum, also in Berlin. The difference also showed in the presentation: Siemens did the traditional speaker setup, where Bosch had a talkshow-like format, more personal but less informative.
Normally modest, Miele, the largest global premium appliance brand, announced that they would show us the world best washing machine ever. And they did. Their last year’s W1 model, then already the most advanced washer due to a special, two-stage detergent dosing system, was improved with a touch screen user interface (just a few months after Samsung stole the show with a similar top model) and a even improved water addition system which allows for shorter washing time using the full 9 kg load. Of course the long washing time is the main disadvantage of European horizontal-drum washers. And, the name of the washer says it all: Prestige.
When the novelties regarding the connected appliances were presented, there was a critical question from Frankfurt newspaper FAZ why the networking offerings from all the brands were not compatible, and Miele’s CEO dr. Zinkann stated with refreshing honesty that this confusing is partly the reason for the low customer appreciation of smart home products. Miele also showed a vacuum cleaner lifting two washers by 900 Watt air suction pressure, to demonstrate that Miele is ready for the new EU rules allowing only 1200 Watt power, a measure the industry agrees on because the race towards larger motors (up to 2000 Watt) is seen as illogical, unnecessary and bad for the environment.
And, no surprise, most of the new appliances from the three brands were shown with matching apps. They are not ready for immediate download, but in 2015 there will be published for iOS and Android.
We will inform you about other product novelties in later articles.
By Paul Roggema