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CES 2014: Pre-Event Analysis

1/3/2014
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Consumers who are keen on electronic products are eagerly awaiting 7 January and the start of CES 2014 in Las Vegas. Euromonitor International takes a look at the trends and technologies which are likely to hog the limelight at the show:

  • Wearable electronics
  • Ultra-high definition (Ultra HD)
  • Smart anything

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 Source: Samsung Corp

Wearable Electronics

With consumer electronics in key regions like North America and Western Europe expected to register negative growth in both volume and value over the forecast period, manufacturers are in desperate need of a new product type. They are banking on wearable electronics as the next revenue driver to help reverse the decline, particularly with smartphones and tablets hitting an innovation plateau.

The fact that Samsung Corp’s eagerly anticipated smartwatch (Galaxy Gear) failed to match its hype at last year’s IFA should hopefully serve as a reminder to other manufacturers of the need to address the three main aspects of the user experience in order to encourage consumers to buy wearable electronics:

  1. Usefulness
  2. Usability
  3. Habit-forming

Manufacturers banking on wearable electronics in 2014 to drive revenue will be disappointed as sales are forecast to reach just 26 million units. However, with technologies like flexible display becoming commercially viable for mass production, sales of wearable electronics are expected to hit 250 million units in 2018.

Ultra-High Definition (Ultra HD)

Despite the high hopes pinned by manufacturers on 3D-enabled televisions in 2009, this functionality has been relegated to just an expected feature on mid and high-end digital televisions rather than being seen as commanding a premium. The same fate awaits ultra-high definition televisions as manufacturers are increasingly offering ultra HD panels on their mid-range models and depressing prices to drive critical volume for mass production. In fact, one in three digital televisions sold in 2016 will be ultra HD.

Manufacturers are struggling to come up with meaningful innovations look for an easy way out and touting large numbers for bragging rights. Samsung Corp and LG Corp will be showcasing 105” curved televisions at CES 2014. As mentioned in an earlier opinion piece, curved displays signify innovation for the sake of it and offer no real benefits to viewers.

Smart Anything

Consumers’ love of smartphones shows no sign of faltering, with sales forecast to exceed one billion units in 2014. The phenomenal success of smartphones has compelled manufacturers to offer products with smartphone connectivity. Beyond wearable electronics, and in particular passive wearable electronics, manufacturers will be adding network connectivity to appliances like refrigerators and washing machines. In an earlier interview with CNET, Samsung’s President of Consumer Electronics, Mr Yoon Boo-Keun, tabled the idea of smart appliances which will be enjoyable to use and without the need for smartphones as the next step forward. While the idea of smart devices is nothing new, the challenge lies in the implementation.

Mobile Devices from Smaller Manufacturers

While manufacturers will continue to announce smartphones and tablets running on 64-bit architecture (like the iPhone 5S) at CES, manufacturers like Samsung and LG will only unveil their flagship models at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in February. Apple does not participate in trade shows and chooses to host its own events when announcing new products. With major manufacturers like Samsung and LG expected to hog the limelight at MWC 2014, other manufacturers like ZTE and Huawei may use CES to announce their smartphone and tablet line-ups. However, with manufacturers struggling to innovate with smartphones and tablets, do not expect any ground breaking announcements at CES 2014.

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