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Quick and dirty: What Panasonic will be showing off at IFA 2008

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I’m here at IFA in Berlin, a stone’s throw away from my temporary base of operations in Barcelona. The show itself—think CES, just run by a bunch of well-dressed Europeans—starts this weekend, but a few companies are having hip-hip hooray press conferences a bit early, announcing new products then quickly putting them back behind a curtain, saying how great they are, etc. Panasonic did as much today, showing off a few items that might interest you.

First up, a 58-inch “neo PDP” plasma TV that’s only 1-inch thick. (Neo-PDP is an unreleased, next generation plasma technology that’s twice as efficient as current plasma TVs. Power consumption is cut in half, cabinet profiles can be reduced, etc. Everyone wins.) It’s still only a prototype, so Panasonic’s not talking release dates or prices quite yet. Basically, it was an opportunity for the Panasonic guy to hold up a €2 coin to demonstrate how thin the TV is.

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The company also showed off the DMW-500, its first Blu-ray recorder in Europe. It’ll be released in France first, since, in Panasonic’s view, the over-the-air HD broadcasting situation in France is mature enough to warrant a Blu-ray recorder. What’s the use in getting a Blu-ray recorder if there’s nothing (or very little) to record?

Viera Cast was also extensively demoed at the press conference. Now, I already saw this IPTV service demoed in New York a few months ago, so that might have been for the benefit of the Europeans. It’s sorta like Dashboard on Mac OS X, but the widgets are in a fixed location on the screen. The big deal here (apparently) is that Eurosport will be providing all sorts of videos for Viera Cast. Football (soccer), tennis, motor sports, etc. You know, sports that are big in Europe.

Here’s a thought: why would you buy a stand-alone IPTV device if it’s already built into your TV?

So yeah, just a brief summary of Panasonic’s presser this morning. When IFA actually starts—I’m writing this from a half-finished LG home theater showcase with “The Nanny” on the TV, only it’s dubbed in German— I’ll do a full booth tour, annoying the PR folks and taking photos of the devices in action. Because when it’s 3am and the phone rings, I’ll be there to pick it up.

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