International CES Preliminaries Kick Off With Annual Look At Tech Trends
January 4, 2016 at 4:03 PM (PT)
INTERNATIONAL CES doesn't officially start until WEDNESDAY (1/6), but the action has already begun for the assembling media at MANDALAY BAY on MONDAY afternoon, which heard the annual update from the newly-renamed CONSUMER TECHNOLOGY ASSOCIATION's Senior Dir./Research SHAWN DUBRAVAC and Sr. Dir./Market Research STEVE KOENIG on consumer electronics trends on a national and global basis.
DUBRAVAC's presentation started with an explanation of the change of his organization's name from CONSUMER ELECTRONICS ASSOCIATION to better reflect its changing membership, and he noted that this year's CES is the largest in history, with 150,000 attendees expected, 45,000 from outside the U.S. He reiterated elements from his book "Digital Destiny," recounting the history of how the "five pillars" of the industry -- ubiquitous computing, cheap digital storage, connectivity, proliferation of digital devices, and the "sensor"ization of tech -- have come to pass.
He noted a "changing of the dialogue," arguing that past discussions were about "what was technologically possible," while within the last 12 months, the conversation has moved to what is technologically meaningful -- why it matters, and what the use case scenarios might be. He also suggested that the CE industry is at an inflection point, with forecasts showing the traditional main categories of electronics -- phones, TVs, computers, laptops, and tablets, -- will drop below 50% of the total market in aggregate this year, down from 51% last year.
DUBRAVAC's trends for 2016 included "ambient sensing" (using sensors to unobtrusively sense and monitor motion, temperature, health, and even emotion); "aggregated learning" (recommendations using information gleaned from and shared by cameras, sensors, and other sources used together); autonomous cars (he predicted 2020 will bring the first fully self-driving car); virtual reality (expected to grow to 1.2 million units this year, with OCULUS announcing preorders being taken starting WEDNESDAY for its next offering); 4K TVs; broadening health and fitness product offerings; drones; 3D printers; and smartphones.
KOENIG said that the 2016 global economy forecast is mixed, with CHINA slowing down and the strong U.S. dollar making U.S. exports more expensive having an impact. Tablets, laptops, regular phones, TVs, smartphones, cameras, and computers took 79% of sales in 2015 but are projected to represent 78% this year; mobile, and especially smartphones, are driving the industry's growth. Smartphones and tablets together represent 46% of global spending, but KOENIG said he expects the share to stay at that level. Adding in mobile PCs puts the share at 58%, and the three -- smartphones, tablets, and mobile PCs -- drew the nickname "technology's triumvirate" trio KOENIG, who warned that the First Roman Triumvirate (CRASSUS, POMPEY, and CAESER) lasted only seven years.
He predicted mixed growth among devices on a global level this year, with wearables leading growth and smartphones "really, really" slowing down, dropping from rapid double-digit growth down to single digits last year and this year, impacted by lower prices in emerging markets.
Tablets are also showing a decline in growth, which KOENIG noted represents density (multiple tablet owners and upgraders) rather than more households adopting the technology, with many finding their larger-screen smartphones adequate for tasks otherwise assigned to tablets.