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3D TVs and tablets beckon at Berlin's IFA trade fair

By Nicola Leske

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germans are not known to be a nation of spendthrifts but when it comes to consumer electronics they throw caution to the wind -- much to the delight of exhibitors at Berlin's IFA trade fair starting this week.

"Germans are currently in a downright buying frenzy," said Jeffry van Ede, board member of German tech industry body Bitkom.

Exhibitors at Europe's largest consumer electronics trade fair IFA are hoping that behavior will spill over into the rest of Europe as they negotiate contracts with retailers for the coming months and the year-end holiday shopping season.

IFA, which opens its doors to the public on Friday, is traditionally an indication for orders and, if forecasts are anything to go by, things are looking up.

This year, the trade show is so well booked that organizers have had to put up an additional hall to accommodate companies and trade bodies lining up to exhibit there through September 8.

The fair expects to surpass the number of exhibitors during its record year of 2008, when 1,245 companies and associations set up stands.

Order volume last year was more than 3 billion euros ($3.79 billion), surpassing the previous record result in 2008.

German industry association gfu, which organizes the trade show, said it expect sales from consumer electronics in Europe's biggest economy to reach at least 25 billion euros this year after 24.3 billion euros in 2009.

STARRING: 3D TVS AND TABLETS

IFA, one of the world's oldest consumer electronics fairs, in 2008 ventured into new territory by including washers, dryers, stoves and other household appliances.

But ever since 1928, the big stars of the fair have been TVs, and despite technological advancements, a plethora of mobile devices and gadgets galore, TVs are still the main draw at IFA's 50th anniversary.

German tech industry association Bitkom raised its outlook for television sales in Germany this year to 9.6 million sets and said revenue would jump 11 percent to 6.6 billion euros compared with 2009, which had been a record year for sales.

The global TV market is estimated at 228 million units.

Top manufacturers such as Sony Corp, LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics and Panasonic are expected to show off their 3D TVs at IFA, now that the technology has matured and is poised to go mainstream.

Technology research firm iSuppli expects 4.2 million 3D TV sets to be sold this year, or about 2 percent of all LCD TVs. That figure is forecast to rise to 78 million in 2015.

Consumer research firm GfK estimates that 40,000 3D TV sets have been sold in Germany so far this year.

On a smaller screen, tablets will be another major attraction.

Samsung and Toshiba are expected to showcase their challengers to Apple's iPad at IFA on September 2 ahead of the trade fair's official start. On the same day, Apple is expected to provide its annual update of its iPod range at a San Francisco media event.

Samsung will unveil its Galaxy Tab and Toshiba its SmartPad.

In a clever move to ensure attention does not wane, Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt will give the closing international keynote speech on September 7, a day before the fair ends.

(Editing by Erica Billingham)

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