Television

Consumer electronics industry finds silver lining in grim economic climate

Benjamin J. Romano
The Seattle Times (MCT)

LAS VEGAS - The consumer electronics industry gave a sober assessment Tuesday of the hits its primary customers - consumers - have taken in the past year. But the industry's economists also had plenty to cheer about as their products are accounting for a growing share of consumer spending.

"As you'd expect, as consumers lost a tremendous amount of wealth in real estate and in equity holdings, you saw them cut back on what they were buying," Shawn DuBravac, economist with the Consumer Electronics Association trade group, said Tuesday as the International Consumer Electronics Show chugged to life here.

Discretionary spending decreased in the past few months of 2008 as consumers tried to "squeeze out those excess purchases," particularly such big-ticket items as cars and anything related to the housing market, including major home appliances and furniture, he said.

He expects that trend to continue in 2009 with a decrease in consumer spending of 0.3 percent. DuBravac sees a chance for recovery in the latter half of the year and early 2010 as an expected federal stimulus plan takes effect.

"The 2008-2009 two-year period will represent the worst two-year period we've seen since the early '80s," he said.

"On the brighter side, technology continues to outperform these other industries," he said.

In 2008, consumers channeled a greater share of their durable-goods purchases toward technology than ever before. The consumer technology category accounted for more than 15 percent of durable goods spending.

"Even though we have a backdrop of economic calamity and catastrophe, if you will, consumer demand ... in the United States for consumer technology remains robust," DuBravac said.

He expects to see more PCs, mobile phones, TVs and video games sold in 2009 than in 2008. Revenue may not surpass the previous year, "but we still see that growth curve continuing out into the opening years of the next decade," he said.

His forecast has video game console sales growing more slowly, about 2.8 percent, in 2009. The current generation of game consoles has been on the market for two to three years. "It's quite natural for shipments to start to turn the corner here and peak in 2009 as the industry waits for the next generation," he said, adding that observers are looking for new game consoles to arrive between 2013 and 2015.

Some of the big trends CEA is tracking in 2009 include:

"Greener" technology. Credible green features such as energy efficiency, recycled materials and fewer chemicals in products ranked above brand name in a CEA survey of consumer purchase decisions, said Steve Koenig, CEA's director of industry analysis. But the same survey revealed both confusion on green attributes and "a healthy dose of skepticism" of companies' environmental claims.

The evolution of electronics command and control. This trend includes natural user interfaces such as touch and voice recognition that are already becoming common on devices such as mobile phones. It also takes in devices being used for new purposes, such as a cell phone doubling as a television remote control.

Embedded Internet. "Even just 24 months ago the bulk of our time online was spent communicating," DuBravac said. "Now we spend the bulk of our time online engaging in content." In response, more consumer electronics are coming with built-in Internet connections, including a new line of "Broadband HDTVs" that LG Electronics announced on Monday.

Another notable development is the emergence of the low-cost, lightweight "netbook" category of PCs. By CEA's estimates, the category is exploding, going from about 300,000 to 400,000 units shipped in 2007 to 10 million in 2008. It's expected to hit 18 million units in 2009.

Many of these, including new models demonstrated Tuesday by Asus, are incorporating touch capabilities and swiveling screens, potentially giving new life to the Tablet PC concept.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.