It’s that time of year again when every tech-reviewer and their dog postulates the top technology trends for the coming year, with forecasts based on the results of the world’s largest annual consumer electronics showcase which is currently happening in Las Vegas, USA.
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) consistently sets the mood for the consumer electronics calendar, with the newest and smartest products from around the world gathered under one roof, along with industry heavyweights from top companies including Panasonic and Samsung gathering to talk shop, chat tech and lend their advice to thousands of technology journalists who make the yearly pilgrimage to the event.
With inside knowledge however from the heart of the chaos, SmartHouse has put together a list of eight predictions for which the industry should watch out this year, coupled with local trends and forecasts from some of the country’s major players in retail.
A Retail World
The fact that consumers spent a massive $1.1 billion more than forecast over the pre-Christmas period bodes well for the year ahead, with the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) calculating Australians spent $36.5 billion in the six weeks before 25 December, while post-Christmas spending has remained steady, up 7 per cent from last year.
The country’s largest electronics retailer, Harvey Norman, said sales for the season so far have been “outstanding”, particularly for digital cameras, games consoles, laptop computers and LCD and plasma TVs.
“It’s the greatest December we’ve ever had. Up to Christmas Day and on from that, it’s just been enormous,” Harvey Norman chairman, Gerry Harvey, told the Courier Mail.
The shopping spree comes despite a record number of rate rises throughout 2007, along with continuously rising petrol prices leading to increased food and consumer goods costs.
The fact that we are spending more than ever regardless of our rising living expenses, suggests Harvey Norman and other local retailers are in for a bumper 2008.
According to electronics retailer, Bing Lee, the next 12 months will enjoy massive flatscreen TV sales due to the forthcoming Olympics.
Bing Lee typically sends up to four staff from its front office along with a selection of store managers to CES.
“We go every year to see where the consumer electronics market is heading. It is the biggest show for our industry, and now more IT suppliers are heading there because of the convergence of IT and AV. It’s a very important show,” said Bing Lee general manager, Phil Moujeas.
Moujeas anticipates his delegates will return from CES with a selection of new consumer technologies including advancements in flatscreen TV design and technology, in time for the peak sporting season.
In the meantime, LCD trumped plasma in terms of sales in the lead-up to Christmas at Bing Lee, with portable in-car navigation units, MP3 players and digital photo frames – which the company now stocks in four different brands – also selling well throughout the season.
“It was a record week for us between Christmas and New Year,” said Moujeas, who also said his company made more money in sales on 27 December than any other day of the year.
For electrical and appliance retailer, BSR, portable gadgets such as MP3 players and GPS units also sold well.
“Demand for electrical products was, as expected, extremely strong in the lead up to Christmas. In particular, portable appliances, brown goods and air conditioners were popular nationally,” said BSR general manager, Ian Brown.
“Marketing also played a role and categories such as kitchen products with attached gift cards, such as those offered under our exclusive Sunbeam and Susan’s Gift Card promotions, were keenly sought after.”
Brown says group sales for the lead-up to Christmas were “up significantly” from the same period last year, while “trading post Christmas continues to be strong.”
According to Brown, IT products and personal electrical goods will sell like hotcakes in 2008, while the store has also noticed an increase in sales of gift cards which allow recipients to purchase a product of their chioice.
“This is a relatively new development in Australia but one that customers responded to extremely well over Christmas,” he said.
On With The Show
Millions of dollars will be spent this week by vendors attempting to lure consumer electronics buyers including Harvey Norman to stock their products, with the retailers forecasting which products will sell well on their retail floors, ordering in advance stocks for up to the fourth quarter of fiscal 2008.
This year’s CES, which officially kicks off today, is expected to attract 140,000 attendees from the industry who will gather to view 167,000 square metres of show space.
Following is a selection of the technology trends already emerging at the show, following a full day of vendor functions held yesterday at the site.
1. Thin is in
Slim is the key in the home this year with LG Electronics showcasing new thin wireless TVs including digital TV for those on the move, while Sharp is announcing a 20mm, 100,000:1 contrast ratio LCD.
2. Home storage solutions
Where to keep all those movies, photos and music files we have hanging around on portable devices? On a home storage network. Microsoft is ramping up its media centre with DVR Anywhere – a system that allows users to stream content to a number of external displays around the house.
3. Mobile phone content
Soon everyone will have a number of USB drives, a couple of SD cards for their camera and camcorder. Don’t get caught without yours; Kingston and HP will be rolling out some new advancements in the technology.
4. Blu-ray to slam HD DVD
Major movie studio, Warner Bros, put another knife in HD DVD’s back when it announced that it will begin distributing certain films only on the Blu-ray format, snubbing rival HD DVD.
5. Smart design
Some companies class being first to market as more important that first to volume, with Philips rolling out another design entity with the ‘minimalist design collection’ – a group of feminine-inspired home entertainment products to capture the elusive market.
While retailers continually sing the praise of portable in-car GPS units, CES this year includes various high-tech, whiz-bang, built-in units that double as the car stereo and mobile phone interface.
7. Wireless HD
Panasonic is first, but many will follow the new high definition audio/video transmission system based on the WirelessHD standard – WiHD operates on the 60GHz platform and allows users to do away with home entertainment cabling, with movies streaming wirelessly from the DVD player to the TV.
OLED TV has arrived in the US for around $2,500 per 11-inch panel, however Sharp says the technology is not ready for larger screen types and that its operating life is not up to scratch. Will it survive the trip Down Under? That’s for you to decide.