Millennials Impacting CE Industry Big Time

With short attention spans and a lust for instant gratification…millennials are driving the Consumer Electronics industry in a wide set of diverse directions.

Price continues to be a predominant buying motivator, but things like quick delivery, internet connectivity, and mobile enablement are approaching equal priority.

Unlike the trends in the 1990’s and 2000’s, the last several years have seen a rapid adoption of millennial-driven retail sales adjustments to accommodate (some would say coddling) of this highly “different” generation of consumers.

Rather than kick the tires, hold electronic devices in their hands, try samples, and test drive products…delivery online via overnight or rapid service is a higher priority.

Furthermore, this age-based category of buyers embraces value and shorter-term life-experience-based products. The traditional Consumer sales pitch of “this will last for many years” seems to have nominal interest by millennials. After all, nearly anything involving a “long term commitment” is not welcomed by the consumer market segment.

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One great example is the village industry of trading Apple iPad models every 2 years or so, even though newer models may not have all that much “new” or “improved”. The millennial consumers have widely adopted technology being measured in dog years.

Therefore, the CE industry is evolving and adapting to this trend in the overall product and buying habits. One has to wonder what the impact will be to the quality and durability of Consumer goods if the buyer expectations are “we won’t keep it that long anyway”. But in terms of ongoing sales…that part of the future looks bright, even though value as a criteria will continue to be a major driver in this industry.

 

 

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Microsoft Gains Market Traction with Tablets

It’s not all that long ago that the Apple iPad was Tablet King.

Nearly everyone you talked to who had a tablet had an iPad, and the visibility on TV and at retailers was obvious and substantial.

Over the past year or so, the Microsoft Surface has seen a similar accelerated visibility and market growth. During the NFL football season, seeing all those Surface tablets on the sidelines, as well as the “NFL Official Tablet” promotions has catapulted the Surface Windows-based tablet into the lime-lite – with sales growing significantly in both business and personal markets.

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What differentiates the Windows-based tablets (like Surface) from the iOS-based (Apple) tablets are 1) price, 2) connectivity, and 3) storage expansion.

While iPad tablets do a job of delivering their functional key purposes…they are limited in their ecosystem. If you want to project an output via HDMI – it’ll take an (expensive) adapter. Need more storage -another (expensive) adapter. Want to connect something via USB 3.0 – yes – yet another adapter.

In contrast, the Microsoft Surface (and most other Windows-based tablets) offer USB, HDMI, and often SD/microSD storage expansion…without any expensive adapter.

From a business and power-user perspective…these are essential capabilities.

Don’t expect to see them anytime soon on any iPad device. Ever since Steve Jobs labeled these connectivity and storage items as “not that important”, Apple has stuck with their closed ecosystem philosophy on iPads.

Assuming this continues, Windows tablets are expected to gain in market share and market sales successes. At the same time, iPads are becoming “table stakes” in the tablet world.

It’s THAT Time Again = CES 2017 is Here!

The statement “Time Flies” is often used…but actually fits the case for CES each year.

While the memory of last year’s event (with over 170,000 attendees) is still reasonably fresh in many minds…this week sees CES 2017 in Las Vegas.

Those of us fortunate enough to attend appreciate all the planning and work that goes into pulling off this extravaganza. CEA deserves a great deal of credit for organizing it.

More to come on what is seen, heard, and learned at this year’s event.

Nearly Everything is or will soon be Digital

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I have 2 friends who recently obtained mortgages.

In both cases, their employment and finances were confirmed electronically via a digital portal. In both cases, all but the final closing documents were processed with eSign digital documents.

This made for a near-paper-free experience for these folks.

Electronic bill pay, online purchases, portal-driven services, business-driven social media, customer service and support via regular or video chat, and mobile enablement overall has transitioned the Consumer Experience into the Digital Age for many Americans.

Despite some diminishing bugs and problems, overall this transition has changed commerce, finance, and other key economic drivers.

All this has already led to accelerated conversations of “what’s next?”

 

Hard to Believe CES 2017 is approaching

It seems like only yesterday that the 170,000+ International Consumer Electronics Show attendees and vendors were gathered in Las Vegas for CES 2016.

Within the next few weeks, registration will begin for CES 2017.

Speculation on new highlighted technology has already begun – with Auto tech, medical tech, and wireless tech being the 3 most predicted new “things”. As was the case in recent years, 4K UHDTV will also have a prominent place on the exhibit floor.

As has always been the case, there will also be full hotels, busy taxis, Uber drivers scampering, and rampant restaurant guests. Registering early is advised, as well as planning travel arrangements.

CES continues to be the premier event in this genre, and as an industry tradeshow event, it has something for nearly everyone who is in attendance (not open to the public).

 

We have covered this huge spectacular for the past 7 years, and hope to do so again in January 2017. See you there!

This fingernail-sized 256GB microSD card is the world’s fastest

Just when we think we’ve seen the latest, the smallest, the fastest…along comes a new offering.

Sandisk just announced its $199 256GB microSD card, to be released Q4 2106.

SanDisk Extreme

The card will have transfer speeds of up to 100MB/s and write speeds of 90MB/s — quick enough to transfer an entire HD movie in around 45 seconds. That amount of storage will also support keeping up to 14 hours of 4K video footage or 10’s of thousands of high res photos in camera equipment.

Furthermore, the high transfer speeds makes this ideal for the latest smartphone use, as well as tablets.

Sandisk will also offer a “little brother” version for $149, but these specs at the $199 price tag makes that nearly irrelevant to many users.

Samsung also recently announced a new 256GB microSD card as well with similar specifications – that one at $249.

Human Communications – the Future?

Over the past 4 months, several of my work associates and I have conducted a diligent (but not scientific) study about human conversation – and how technology has a role.

By charting use of a smartphone, as well as emails, about 700 human “communication engagements” were noted.

The results proved interesting, but some not all that surprising:

  1. Millennials clearly favored text communications, followed by email or other electronic channels – all ahead of voice or direct human communications. In about 85% of the recorded opportunities for communication, texting won out as the successful means to “have a conversation” about 2/3 of the time. Another 20% prefered a combination of email, Facetime, or one of the instant chat services. The remaining 14% of intended communications ended up “face to face”.
  2. Baby boomers preferred personal (face-to-face) communications nearly 3 to 1. That said, a growing acceptance and adoption of instant messaging and texting seemed to also be popular – especially when communication with their children, peers for work, and anyone else under the age of 40. The observations of those seen demonstrated and “adaptation” to the new normal of electronic communication. Email was still very much accepted and used.
  3. Gen X – the results 9as expected) were a hybrid of the other two segments recorded above.

What is clear is regardless of the society segment, growing acceptance and use of electronic communication is strong, and growing. Ironically, when asked, a good number of people observed indicated they would “prefer having a personal conversation” (face to face) with another communicant, but have found it to be a growing challenge.

One example cited: A parent trying to reach their young adult son called multiple times over a 60 minute timeframe and left 2 voicemails. Thereafter, they attempted to reach the same son using a text message and got a near-immediate reply.

This example was referenced by a number of people observed in this informal study.

There is neither enough data/evidence to come to a clear conclusion about the future of communications overall, but it appears pretty clear that the ease and speed of electronic communication methods is being adopted at a brisk and majority rate.

Yet another example why APPLE is considered the Darth Vader of Technology

People tend to either be pro-Apple or anti-Apple.

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There are few bystanders without a view one way or another.

Those in favor tend to cite the various claims often found in Apple’s own marketing claims… “it just works”, “it’s simple”, and they are “innovative”.

Folks who find Apple arrogant, over-hyped, over-priced, and not as innovated as they claim often find themselves having coffee-table or lunch break room discussions with their counterparts on these issues.

On the last point in particular – “innovation”, Apple patriots frequently point to numerous patents obtained by the tech company over the past 10-12 years.

Just this past week, a U.S. Appeals Court shot down several court patent claims and counterclaims by Apple – ruling that not only was tech rival Samsung not obligated to pay previously-ruled judgements pertaining to patent infringement, but they actually ruled that some of Apple’s patents were not even valid.

Furthermore, they ruled that Samsung’s countersuit was valid that Apple infringed on the Samsung patents.

This most recent legal ruling result only underscores the strong pro & anti debate Apple views…pointing in the direction of Apple being the evil empire villain in this tech space.

Here’s a link to a news report on the ruling itself:

msn.com/…-in-apple-patent-case/ar-BBq4rZZ

Like the Star Wars series, there will likely be sequels, but in the short term, the Revenge of the Jedi has won the most current battles.

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CES 2016 – Summary and Interesting Sightings

For those folks fortunate to witness the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) more than once, the evolution of various technologies can be informative, revealing, exciting, confusing, disappointing, and invigorating. That’s the reality range of the technology world in general.

That said, my impressions of CES 2016 covered nearly all those emotional experiences and closed with far more optimism about the Consumer Electronics world than seen in many years.

The more than 170,000 attendees had the opportunity to visit in excess of 3600 exhibiting companies within the 300,000+ square feet of this massive event.

It is nearly impossible to see everything offered – most attendees plan their “what should I go see” strategy in advance, so that they can at least cover their preferred areas of interest first, and then if any time remains…roam the large halls to see what is available.

Here are just some of the more interesting views from CES 2016:

While 4K UHD has been visible (and 8K for that matter) at CES for multiple years now, in 2016, it was obvious that it is real and here to stay. Every manufacture in site at CES had a multitude of 4k UHD display devices, along with complimentary other devices. Even more important, adoption of the HDMI2.0a and HDCP 2.2 standards for 4k UHD delivery was seen as commonplace this year at CES for the first time.

To illustrate the momentum of 4K UHD – this was the first year that 4K UHD Blu Ray players were on display and being demoed numerous places at CES. In addition, actual 4K Blu Ray content has started to get on retailers’ shelves and momentum for more content is building quickly.

Demos of 4K UHD (real) content – made using 4k UHD cameras now available through retailers, along with Blu Ray retail-ready offerings validated that 4K UHD is past the “vaporware” stage and will be a tangible consumer offering in 2016. Much like the impressive 4K UHD TVs, the 4K Blu Ray players all touted HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2 port connectivity. Cables from numerous vendors were also seen all over CES. The standards on paper are now real standards deployed, which should make consumer adoption easier and more cost-effective.

010716 Samsung Booth 3_ 4k Blu Ray player with HDR

Extended range WIFI hardware (routers, repeaters, 1080p security cameras, and other devices) were shown in the Linksys, Amped Wireless, and other locations. The power and range of these WIFI units are indeed impressive.

One of the more quick-growing sections in the CES floor overall is the Home Automation area. While various technologies have been spawned in the past, CES 2016 displayed real, tangible, practical, and useful devices and integration for the “common consumer”.

While there still appears to be some home automation technology searching for an audience, other vertical markets such as home security, home theater & audio, wireless remote control of home devices via mobile apps, and similar “more mainstream” offerings are clear mature, stable, truly integrated, and impressive. This appears to be a large growth potential market.

One interesting aspect of this arena is that there is some convergence of various elements that show promising synergies – such as seen at the ADT security booth with their newer and more affordable hub-based services. In addition, Echostar showed off an integrated security offering (“Sage”) that included a pretty impressive seamless UI to the TV experience. Imagine getting a popup video window when a motion detector is triggered in the home security system while watching TV – without disturbing the viewing, the consumer can observe and respond to the video notification based their assessment of urgency.

010616 Drones 3

As was the case last year, there was an abundance of various types, sizes, shapes, and features for drones. Parrot had an entertaining display with a group of drones synchronized to music, performing all sorts of aerial acrobatics. The two biggest “new things” from the drone world were the larger variety of sizes and the continued advancement in controller devices.

One manufacturer showed a drone that was only 3” in diameter, and the booth demo staff was showing off about 4-5 of these operating concurrently – al controlled by their smart phones acting as controllers. Both the stability and ease of use of these small units was actually quite impressive.

Contrast this experience to the larger (4 feet in diameter and up) units, which showed high-end controllers with ranges measured in kilometers or miles. In addition, all sorts of gyroscopic-driven cameras and other harnessed/mounted hardware below the flying units demonstrated that the serious drone user could actually experience a very sophisticated device at long range and capture HD video (there was one 4K camera shown in one booth), all while keeping full user control of these units.

While there was some discussion buzz about the FAA registration requirements, minimal negative feedback was heard.

Now for some of the less-than-positive side of CES 2016.

Sony’s Booth   All the major manufacturers have huge booths at CES – hundreds of staff manning the various sub-areas within the spaces.

Sony is one of the larger vendors who have a massive booth with impressive visual presentations and demonstrations. While the individual areas (especially the 4K UHD area) were still expectedly well done – the large nearly-blank white walls surrounding the booth with occasional cryptic graphics projected on them made one feel like they were inside a giant igloo with the cartoon network running on cheap wall projectors. I suspect they’ll get plenty of negative feedback, and revamp next year. In one word – UGH!

Health & Fitness Area   This has become one of the fastest growing spaces at CES the past 3 years – it has exponentially grown. That being the case, there was almost an overflow of redundant technologies, which led attendees to probably feel wonder how many devices are there to measure your blood pressure and heart rate. It reminded me of the vast number of “iPhone and Galaxy phone case vendors” of years past – there were just too many versions of the same thing in this area in my opinion. Put simply – CES needs to scale back the size of this area next year – there’s simply too much duplication by too many vendors.

Summary   While there is a great deal of additional detail behind these specific report topics, it is relatively easy to summarize my observations of CES with these high points:

  • Unlike a number of past years, CES 2016 came closer to showing more “this year” things than “somewhere in the future” technologies.
  • REAL presentations, rather than artificially-produced content was seen and will become available later in 2016 (instead of far into the future).
  • The 4K UHD product & services industry seems to have gotten their act together and is now executing in harmony for industry “standards” (HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2 in particular).
  • Some of the firsthand observations at CES can only lead to optimism about some of the new technologies on many fronts. The word “impressive” was used all over the CES show floor in numerous locations – and rightfully so.
  • Using technologies like WIFI and the Internet in general have evolved to now provide some substantive and useful products and services – there’s now a reason to have good WIFI and broadband Internet in the home beyond just streaming or surfing (or games).
  • I observed a general move toward more realistic delivery timeframes, near-term expectations, and tech roadmaps. In 2016, there was much more realism in demonstrations and responses to questions in contrast to wishful thinking or too-far-into-the-future realities.
  • The pace of “time to market” seems to be accelerating on several fronts in the Consumer Electronics world – especially 4K UHD-related products & services, as well as Home automation.
  • Drones appear to be here to stay, and the level of sophistication continues to grow each year.
  • Tech advances in general are moving as fast as ever toward “better, faster, and more competitive” (meaning more for your buck).
  • Overall feedback from attendees all over the CES 2016 exhibit floor and speaker sessions underscored a more positive outlook for this industry in 2016.

CES has always been about the future – the difference this year is that what was experienced onsite appeared to be more real, reasonable, beneficial, useful, and worthwhile for consumers that seen in a number of years at this event.

 

 

 

CES is finally here!

Car technology, new 8K UHD TV, 4K UHD accessories including 4K Blu ray, more new wrist-based items, and expanded home electronics are the top items showcased in Las Vegas this coming week.

With a return to fees for attendees (no more freebies for most people there), the attendance will likely come back under control after last years climb to nearly 175,000 – expect more like 155,000 this year.

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