Ikea Builds Electronics Into Furniture With Uppleva Line
Ikea, known for its low-cost, assemble-it-yourself furniture, is venturing into electronics with a partnership with Chinese manufacturer TCL. The furniture maker's Uppleva line will feature TV cabinets with the TV and other home entertainment components built in. The product will offer a simple and clean alternative to highly customizable but sometimes difficult-to-manage entertainment setups.
A new all-in-one home entertainment center announced Tuesday by Ikea may give some Baby Boomers a sense of deja vu.
The new product line is called "Uppleva" by the Swedish furniture retailer, known for making attractively designed products with odd names and selling them at affordable prices. It combines all the components of a home entertainment system -- flat-screen TV, Blu-ray DVD player, CD player and Internet connection -- into a single piece of furniture.
Uppleva units can be customized. For example, four TV sizes are available (24 to 46 inches) and buyers will be able to pick from three colors (gray, black and blue).
The cabinet containing the components is designed to hide the electronics yet allow signals from the product's single remote control to penetrate the furniture's facade to control the devices in it.
Uppleva products are expected to start at US$955 and have two characteristics for which Ikea is known: flat packaging and easy assembly with an Allen wrench.
Raiding the Rats' Nest
For members of some generations, the product may incite memories of the days of the stereo console -- the centerpiece of a scene in a recent episode of "Mad Men." Consoles became dinosaurs, replaced by component systems.
But does this move by Ikea signal a console comeback? The Scandinavian company reportedly did its homework before brewing the product with Chinese consumer electronics maker TCL.
Market research performed by YouGov in five countries -- Uppleva units will be initially available in June in Sweden, France, Poland, Germany and Italy -- addressed some of the most irritating aspects of component systems to consumers today: rats' nests of cables, proliferation of remote controls and device sprawl.
Among YouGov's findings were that three out of four people wanted fewer visible cables in their living rooms, 60 percent of the 5,200 respondents in the survey had between three and four remote controls in their homes and 50 percent wanted to reduce the number of gadgets in their abodes.
Starter Kit for Newbies
If Uppleva products appeal to anyone, it will be the first-time home entertainment center buyer, posited Kurt Scherf, vice president and principal analyst with Parks Associates.
"It's more of a starter kit for someone," he told TechNewsWorld. "Older, more established consumers are going to be more discerning about their electronic equipment."
"The vast majority of consumers buy their entertainment equipment component by component," he added, "but that speaks to consumers who are established, not to a younger person who may be moving into their first apartment."
Ikea's all-in-one solution will also appeal to consumers concerned about more than just the electronics in their home entertainment systems, he noted.
"Buying entertainment furniture can be an anxious experience because you're not quite sure how well things are going to fit in it," he observed.
Another anxious moment that can be avoided with the Uppleva line is the one in which the user has to deal with the spaghetti dish of cables behind the components.
"I do not like to go behind my entertainment center," Scherf confessed.
How successful a product line like Uppleva will be is uncertain, according to Ben Arnold, an industry analyst with the NPD Group.
"When you talk about consumer electronics, and TVs in particular, it's brand-driven," he told TechNewsWorld. "You can have a slick cabinet, but if the electronics is not a high or premium brand, it may not go very far."
If the idea does catch on, though, it could create some intriguing possibilities, he noted. "Who knows?" he asked. "It could open a whole new avenue for electronics companies and furniture manufacturers for partnering up."
Crawling Through Broken Glass
However, from a gadget perspective, the Uppleva line won't be a game changer, contended Jordan Selburn, a principal analyst with IHS iSuppli.
"From a technology perspective, there's nothing here that a novice person couldn't slap together on their own, maybe for even less money," he maintained.
He did note that Uppleva shows how much of the electronics in an entertainment center have become commodity products, with narrow distinctions in quality.
"Two years ago, people would have crawled through broken glass to get one of today's low-end TV sets," he said.