Mobile Drives Year-End Hopes, 2013 Outlook for Consumer Electronics

11/13/12Follow @jpruth

Betting on ramped-up demand for tablets, phablets, and smartphones, the Consumer Electronics Association offered a somewhat prosperous outlook on Monday for holiday sales and beyond.

Researchers from the organization shared their perspectives at a press event in New York talking about where consumer gadgets may be headed in advance of January’s International CES conference. The momentum behind tablets and their ilk was not wholly surprising, but the television industry continues to search for more innovations to win over audiences.

Shawn DuBravac, chief economist and senior director of research for the CEA, said the ever-growing popularity of tablets has caught the attention of more than just electronics makers. Apple’s new iPad mini and Microsoft’s new Windows Surface will face competition from a plethora of rivals announced and released in recent weeks. “Everyone wants to be in this space,” DuBravac said. “Toys ‘R’ Us launched its own proprietary tablet, and Best Buy is doing the same.”

Steve Koenig, CEA’s director of industry analysis, said mobile devices drove a significant portion of sales in consumer electronics. In fact, he said wholesale revenue growth rates for the industry increased 6 percent in 2012 in the U.S., but if tablets and other mobile gadgets were excluded, that dropped 11 points to a 5 percent decline for the year.

Mobile devices are expected to play significant roles in the innovations and trends in the months ahead, according to DuBravac. He expects to see such technology as near field communication as well as voice and gesture controls combined with smartphones and tablets at CES.

Technology that marries health and fitness with mobile devices is also on the rise, according to DuBravac. “We’ve seen fitness applications taking advantage of the sensors and hardware for smartphones and tablet,” he said. That is expanding to include mobile devices that synch with health diagnostic systems and medical professionals.

While the growing dominance of mobile devices stood out, the television sector seemed eager to try new tricks to stay relevant with viewers. Ultra HD, the next phase—or fad—in television that promises even more vibrant images, is expected to get a sizable push at CES. “Consumers are looking for a richer experience,” DuBravac said. He expects Ultra HD to make up at least 8 percent of the total television market by 2016.

Cloud-based digital movie platform UltraViolet developed by a consortium of studios, retailers, and electronics makers will also make a showing at the conference in January as the entertainment industry looks for ways to keep its content in front of audiences. UltraViolet, backed by studios and media companies collectively known as the Digital Entertainment Group, allows viewers to purchase and watch movies at any time across their media devices such as televisions, tablets, and laptops. A variety of startups such as Shodogg in Valhalla, NY, develop platforms for pushing video to Web connected devices. Now Hollywood studios are taking more direct interest in keeping the audience watching their content. Thus far 6 million households have signed up for the UltraViolet service, according to Craig Kornblau, president of Universal Studios Home Entertainment and vice president of the Digital Entertainment Group. “UltraViolet is arguably the studios’ single most important growth initiative,” he said.

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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