One trend more obvious than any other at the IFA electronics show is how glossy black has taken over the consumer electronics market as the colour and finish of choice.

Everywhere you look there are loudspeakers, MP3 players, internet radios, home theatre systems and other kinds of products, all in glossy black. But the colour really dominates with flat TVs. "Five years ago you couldn't sell a black TV set, but now it has taken over the market," said Peter Örbrink, managing director at consumer electronics buying group Euronics in Sweden, and also a member of its international board.

The conformity among TV manufacturers is because they simply can't afford to go against the grain; the financial risks are too high, according Örbrink.

"If you make a wrong decision it can topple your company, if you don't have the financial muscle," said Örbrink, who isn't a big fan of glossy black. "It looks pretty good, but it's not that fun," he said.

But at the same time TV manufacturers are starting to add subtle changes to their sets, as a way to differentiate them from the competition. Samsung, a pioneer in using glossy black, is adding a red border to its Series 8 family. Even though it may not seem like a big step, it hasn't been taken on a whim by Samsung. Örbrink visited the company while the sets were being developed.

"They where unmistakably nervous," he said.

At Panasonic, a silver arch is what differentiates its flat TVs, but it has also done a survey in Europe, and participants showed an interest in chocolate brown and white. So the company is looking into releasing new models in those colours next year, but glossy black will still be the main choice, according to Oliver Merk, product manager at Panasonic Europe's TV group.

Sooner or later though, the glossy-black trend will run its course and something else will come along. "You can bet that when the next trend comes along everyone will get on it," said Örbrink.

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