A Day Before the Show

(Disclaimer: the following is not a commentary about the Samsung event I just attended, skip ahead a few paragraphs and you’ll find out what Samsung said.)

While this is a story about Samsung, I feel that I should talk a little be about what a press conference is like at a photo show.

Before your mind swings between a something akin to a dry White House press conference and a bacchanalian endeavor that would make National Lampoon blush, let me give you a feeling for what goes on during these press events.

First there is the registration process. These events are limited so only “invited” press are welcome. “Invited” varies depending on the manufacturer, some protect their press list like an 800mm f/1.2 lens, while others are a little bit more relaxed–if you have a business card that looks like it is from a media outlet and you are breathing you’re pretty much in.

Then there is the food, finger food in gleaming chafing dishes. It is always a tough balance that manufacturers fight, trying to balance the amount of food with the amount of press. But that is not as difficult as the balancing act that some reporters make of the mounds of stuffed mushrooms or chicken skewers on a plate. You’d think some were trapped in the Andes mountains. But in reality, the reporters have a problem at these shows, there is never time for meals so you have grab something, anything, when you can get it.

Once the food is gone (usually after I get there) it’s time to move into the large conference meeting room. There is a stage, all sorts of banners with the company logo and whatever “tagline” is the new company slogan.

And they never start on time. Never.

From here, it varies depending on how much “news” they have. First a few introductions of visiting company dignitaries, and then there is generally a review of how things went this year. Not surprising, even in bad years it is amazing how much good news they have. 

Though I do remember listening to a public relations person from Toshiba sarcastically saying how good of a weekend she had when the last major studio announced they were switching to Blu-ray just before CES.

So after the introductions and the yearly review there is the introduction of new products or new concepts (connectivity anyone?), or simply new philosophies about how their technology will do this or do that.

After everyone has had his or her say, there is the question and answer session. Depending on the crowd, this is where it can get interesting, many times more by what is not said than what is said.

After that it is time to file out of the room, pick up the press kit, which is a fancy way of saying, “here is CD-ROM with all the stuff we just said–only a PR person wrote it so it will sound really nice. And there are these cool pictures of the new product. 

With some manufacturers there are little “goodies” in the press bag, like a pin with a blinking LED, or a USB drive with the press materials. Sometimes it might be pair of ear buds or MP3 player, but usually it isn’t much at all. But lets be honest, the value to the journalist is “news”, what was said during the press conference. That helps them do their job. So little trinkets really don’t matter to these folks. (Though I do wonder why SanDisk has the standing room only at their press conferences at CES.)

Now on to the Samsung press conference already in progress…

I will keep this short. While Samsung stressed using “existing solutions and technologies to answer consumers needs” and talked about the Home Network way of sharing photos wirelessly – the new product introduction was the HZ1. A small compact camera with a 24mm ultra wide lens that has a 10X zoom. Due out next year, they only had a mockup on the show floor but it is expected to be able to shoot 720p high definition video.

The question and answer session got a little interesting as one reporter asked for comment about Samsung’s offer to buy SanDisk. There was a bit of chuckling throughout the room. The response was that it was inappropriate to comment in this forum and that negotiations are ongoing.

Now the questioning turned to photography. A report asked about any new D-SLR news. The answer was that Samsung was working with their technology partner on new product, and that if they had introductions it would be sometime in the middle of 2009. Another asked about (paraphrasing) what might be Samsung’s answer to the new micro 4/3rds cameras that is being developed. Samsung replied that they see a need for a mid-price camera as other digital camera growth is slowing. But they said it would be premature to announce anything.

Apparently someone else wanted to dig a little deeper into the lack of SLR news and they asked if Samsung were working on more digital SLRs to come. The speaker had said that he just answered the question, but what the reporter was really asking was: “Is Samsung working on SLRs themselves so they didn’t have to be dependent on a third party. To press the point, another asked if the fact that Pentax was bought by Hoya had any impact on the situation. 

In the words of Law & Order, “Asked and answered”. It appeared (and this is my reading between the lines) that Samsung is working both sides of the equation.

After the press conference it was on to a bus to take us to the Samsung booth. Yes a bus. Did I mention that Photokina is big. We are taking a bus from one end of the convention center to the middle of the convention center. Big.

I find it interesting to walk through a convention center as people are scurrying around trying to get things done. In the short 500-foot (I should be using meters I guess) walk to the Samsung booth, I saw people shampooing carpets, re-lighting sets, unboxing equipment and spokesmodels practicing their best Vanna White. It amazes me that it will all get done by tomorrow. (There will be some very tired people come morning)

The Samsung booth was still having its finishing touches applied. I did get a chance to see the HZ1 mockup. They also presented their dance show. While there was a tie in with Samsung’s SLR and picture sharing, the outfits of the dancers (who went through at least 4 costume changes in about 15 minutes) let you know that you are in Europe.

Back to the bus… the show opens tomorrow.