Top gadget show brought down to earth by recession

US Electronics sales rebounded in the just-ended holiday season, but the industry's biggest event will still have the recession hanging over it.

The International Consumer Electronics Show, which opens Wednesday, will be smaller than usual, with key products unveiled at prices that are far from extravagant.



Manufacturers will use the show in Las Vegas to trot out the devices they hope will keep consumers opening their wallets, despite high unemployment. TVs with 3-D displays, svelte laptops and e-book readers will be the hottest categories.



Gadget makers are in a much better mood than they were a year ago, when they were shocked by a 27 per cent decline in holiday sales of electronics and appliances. In the month leading up to the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show, exhibitors were canceling because they were concerned about the economy, said Jason Oxman, senior vice president at the Consumer Electronics Association, the trade association that organizes CES.



In contrast, in the just-ended shopping season, revenue from electronics sales in the US between 1 November and 24 December rose 5.9 per cent from the same period of 2008, according to an estimate by MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse, which tracks all forms of payment, including cash. The analysts don't give a dollar figure.



And this time CES exhibitors were adding themselves to the lineup in the week before the show, Oxman said.

"There's a great deal of enthusiasm leading into 2010 that just wasn't there in the 2009 show," he said.



The association expects 2,500 exhibitors and 110,000 attendees, roughly flat with last year but still down considerably from 2007, when 144,000 people came.



CES, which began in 1967, was originally focused on home entertainment gear. But with the demise of large computer trade shows in the US, CES is now the main venue not just for audio and video giants like Panasonic, but also such pillars of the computing world as Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Cisco. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will kick off the show with a keynote speech Wednesday night, an annual role he took over from Chairman Bill Gates last year.



Missing from the show, as usual, will be one of the biggest trendsetters in electronics: Apple, which reveals its products at its own events.



For TV makers, CES is the opportunity to demonstrate sets that will hit stores by summer, and to preview technologies that will be available next holiday season.



The manufacturers have been fortunate that the U.S. is still in what is considered a TV upgrade cycle, with households replacing their old tube sets with flat panels. That trend hasn't even slowed in the recession. Research firm iSuppli estimates that 33.8 million flat-panel sets were shipped in the US in 2009, up 17 per cent from 2008.



A major reason is that prices keep declining - a 32-inch flat panel can now be had for just over $300 (£185), which is about what old tube TVs used to cost. But new technologies that yield better picture quality and thinner sets have also enticed buyers, according to iSuppli analyst Riddhi Patel.



The challenge for manufacturers is to keep flat panels hot. In 2010, technologies already available now are likely to be enough to drive sales, Patel believes. But to keep the excitement going, manufacturers will be rolling out 3-D TV sets later in the year, and that will be a major topic at CES.



Bulky rear-projection sets with 3-D capabilities have been available for a few years, but now flat panels will get the 3-D treatment, and there finally will be a way for consumers to bring 3-D movies into the home. In December, the industry group behind the Blu-ray disc format said it had united on a standard for a 3-D version of the disc, and players are expected to be available this year (You would still need special glasses.)



In keeping with the times, 3-D TVs won't be much more expensive than today's high-end sets. The difference between 3-D sets and comparable 2-D TVs will likely be less than $200 (£123). A 3-D capable Blu-ray player, however, would then add a few hundred dollars to the setup.



"The reason this is a blockbuster for TV manufacturers is that for a relatively small incremental hardware cost, they're able to deliver a phenomenally unique and higher-quality experience," said Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation, which has made several 3-D movies.



Laptops have also continued to sell well during the recession, though some of the most popular ones have been small "netbooks" that cost about $300 (£185). At CES, there will be plenty of slightly larger laptops featuring new, power-thrifty chips and higher prices. Computer makers hope that consumers who have gotten an appreciation for light laptops from netbooks will want to pay a few hundred dollars more for a bigger screen and keyboard, and better video-playing performance.



For the first time, e-book readers will have their own section of the show floor, with 23 exhibitors hoping to follow Amazon.com's Kindle to the cusp of the mainstream. Though a reading device like Barnes & Noble Inc.'s Nook costs $259 (£159), a lot more than a single book, it provides access to e-books that are cheaper than the printed versions, largely thanks to Amazon's aggressive pricing policies.



With a strong new product category like e-book readers and a gee-whiz feature like 3-D for the home, coupled with an economic recovery, the show promises to be brighter than last year, if not larger.



"Certainly, at this time last year nobody knew what to expect with the state of the economy and what would be happening," said Tim Alessi, director of product development at LG Electronics USA, which is one of the bigger CES exhibitors. "We're looking forward to going to the show with a lot less uncertainty."

Property
house + home
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Life and Style
Bats detect and react to wind speed and direction through sensors on their wings
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Consultant / 1st Line Support

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As your knowledge grows you wil...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux - Central London

    £40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux ...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Support and Sales Engineer - UC / M2M / IoT

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Cloud ...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living