CES: Consumer gadgets still hot, hotter than cars at least

January 7, 2009

Recession or not, people like gadgets and they’re going to buy them. At least that’s what Consumer Electronics Association economist Shawn DuBravac and industry analyst Steve Koenig suggested in their presentation at CES in Las Vegas.

Of course, overall consumer spending has fallen as thrift becomes thrilling, and the CEA projects it will be down 0.3 percent this year. But people will still shell out for really smart phones, tricked-out digicams and touchy-feely computers.

That’s because people having been spending more and more of their discretionary dollars on gadgets over the years, compared to the percentages they spend on other durable goods like cars and home appliances. Tech is now an integral part of people’s lives, Koenig and DuBravas said.

“They see it as a necessity, not a luxury,” Koenig said. People need cellphones and computers to conduct their business, they need to be connected and mobile — and these needs are somewhat more recession-proof than, say, the car market, he added. Also, even a really expensive gadget still costs less than a car.

In a separate presentation, CEA Market Research director Tim Herbert said that globally, consumer electronics revenues will climb to $724 billion this year, up 4.3 percent from $694 billion in 2008. Last year, sales rose 13 percent. In 2009, 2.5 billion consumer electronics products will be sold globally.
But people will temper their appetite for new technology by choosing smaller gadgets, or ones that use less energy, because they will still look for ways to save.

So what are people going to buy this year? More netbooks, for one. The little laptops that use less processing power and come for as little as $200 have become all the rage recently, and CEA expects netbook sales to keep that momentum in 2009.

People will also want more OLED screens — which are considered more energy efficient than traditional LCD displays — on their devices, the analysts said. Portable navigation systems, e-readers, MP3 players equipped with wireless, high-definition flash camcorders, Blu-ray disc players and next-generation LCD TVs are some of the other consumer gadgets CEA expects will see strong sales this year.

Many of these gadgets will be on display at CES over the next few days. Keep reading us to find out what’s hot and what’s not.

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