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back to article Haters of lurid supershow CES: The consumer tech market is still SHRINKING

As the tech world revels in its orgy of big screens, baffling gadgets and marketing hype that is the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, analysts predict further decline in the, er, consumer electronics market. Market research firm IHS forecasts that worldwide manufacturing revenues in the consumer electronics ( …

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Anonymous Coward

It's hard to get excited about much of the technology around since much of it is just a slight development of something previously released.

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But one could say the same thing about HDTV vs. SDTV. Is it the high resolutions selling TVs these days or the slimmer designs?

For now, my view is that UHD/4K/whatever sets just aren't needed in the consumer market. I mean, just how high a resolution do you need? Where I see things like this being adopted more is in the professional market, where the tech can be enlarged and be used more for presentations.

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4k TVA look absolutely gorgeous so I'd say they are very welcome. The only reason I'd pass on one now is the lack of content that really takes advantage of it.

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Content is King.

I am not sure there is any content out there which would justify spending money on the next generation of display device. And I doubt people want to buy these expensive new devices without the supporting content and infrastructure. I bought my first DVD player because I knew Fellowship of the Ring was on the way. Now we have Blu-Ray and The Hobbit and 3D, and I am not sure the content is enough better to be worth the full investment, though HDTV is enough better that a Blu-Ray player is worthwhile.

And I am not sure that the visual gosh-wow is matched by the quality of the story-telling.. Good content matters, and a combination of recession and content quality has, I think, hurt the 3D options.

As for infrastructure, locally, at least, video streaming seems to kill the internet every evening. We have a lot said about superfast broadband but it is the non-obvious capacity between the exchange and the rest of the iunternet which seems to be the bottleneck. My ADSL connection gives rock-solid performancem speed and BER, but the ISPs, the people who give us "unlimited" internet, don't look likely to be able to deliver content to match the speed increase of "Superfast".

If I can get a better ADSL speed, I'm not unwilling to pay a bit more. But I wonder if I can trust the promises on offer. Am I wasting money on the streaming video service? It was, at least, a cheap special offer.

At least if I buy a DVD I can keep it, and I know I won't be getting screwed by my ISP.

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"4k TVA look absolutely gorgeous so I'd say they are very welcome. The only reason I'd pass on one now is the lack of content that really takes advantage of it."

The trouble is, based on what we've been hearing from the content providers, they've gone into full paranoia mode for 4K content. They want to make sure there's no chance in at least five years or so that anyone can rip 4K content from their media. Sounds to me like they'll develop and patent proprietary everything to cover their bases. Unique media and player devices, new protocols and cabling designs, probably even new TV designs equipped with end-to-end cryptosystems, probably even suicide hardware at the display end to prevent wiretapping. And they've already said flat out, ABSOLUTELY NO general purpose hardware will be allowed anywhere near them.

IOW, if you want to play 4K, it'll be by their rules; otherwise, you go home.

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Re: "by their rules; otherwise, you go home"

On my way already.

I have no use for 4K. I have no intention of replacing my entire set of living room appliances (that work just fine) just to pander to some corporate paranoia, and I will NOT submit my personal viewing habits to the Overview of people who I deem have no right to put their noses in my living room.

They want to lock down their system ? They're welcome to, and they're welcome to rot with it as well.

The future is open. Those who lock down will die of suffocation.

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Re: Content is King.

I doubt people want to buy these expensive new devices without the supporting content and infrastructure.

That pretty much sums it up. We've got a decent package from FIOS that runs us just shy of $300/month for phone, tv, and internet. But at that there isn't enough space on the DVR to justify timeshifting HD programs on the few we do get. So most of the stuff we watch is still 4:3 instead of 6:9. Yes, Verizon offers the HD channels, but at a serious premium over what we're already paying. That translates as absolutely no incentive to switch to 4K or any of the other new gizmos.

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Meh

Why would I be interested in an ultra high def. TV? At a normal viewing distance I can't see the dots on a standard one. Mind you, apart from watching a few DVDs I've no use for a TV anyway.

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DVD?

We don't have a TV at home. Well, we do have 2. but they are CRTs and are stored...

As for watching movies, etc.. well, we do have computer screens... enough if you have a light media use.

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What I want...

...for my next TV is just a screen with lots on Input options. No tuners, no speakers, no "smart" anything except for smarts relating to cleaning up the display data sent to it. Hell, if I could find one of the right size, I'd opt for a computer monitor.

Why? Because I have an Amp, a HTPC, a set-top box... all of which take the place of most of the "extras" stuffed in with the display.

How about it, TV-makers? How about forgetting all of these extra and instead luring me with the best damn display you can build?

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Re: What I want...

So you want to reduce the TV to a commodity product competing for who can ship the barest chinese LCD panel to you for the lowest cost?

While Sony, Panasonic, Apple etc would all like to add every conceivable value added smart feature they can think of to differentiate their product and justify their margin

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Re: What I want...

"So you want to reduce the TV to a commodity product competing for who can ship the barest chinese LCD panel to you for the lowest cost?"

Please. If it's not too much trouble.

Maybe in 20 years there won't *be* any mainstream 'tv manufacturers', any more than there are mainstream manufacturers of turntables, cassette decks or in car 8 tracks today.

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Re: What I want...

No, what he wants is what I want:

The best damn display they can make, lots of inputs with good A/V routing and integration with external devices - and nothing else.

It won't be cheap because a good display isn't cheap, and there are lots of things to differentiate - just look at computer monitors - eg colour gamut.

I don't want them to waste time, effort, components and my electricity on features that I'll never use and which are out of date before the TV even ships, because there are loads of STBs that already do it better.

On top of that, even the consumers who do use the "smarts" etc to start with will have replaced those with external units a long time before they replace the actual display.

Perhaps the worst offenders are the "top end" stuff - a top end customer has multiple top-end external A/V sources and a top-end sound system already and will be replacing them on a rolling basis.

So a top-end display that includes "smart", tuners and speakers is utterly pointless as none of the customers will ever use any of them!

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Re: What I want...

+1 for me. My main TV doesn't have an aerial connected, speakers in TVs have been obsolete for at least the last 15 years since they got obsessed with slimmer and slimmer (ie nowhere to put a proper speaker and no room for a decent enclosure). It's a display device, pure and simple.

Even the average punter these days watches broadcast TV through some sort of external box (Sky/Foxtel/whatever), and most of my stuff comes from external hard drives, with the sound running through my Denon (had to drop the name cos I'm so happy I finally have one!) AV unit anyway.

Bring me nice big frameless displays and forget all the gubbins.

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Re: What I want...

I see the appeal.

You would have to spend a lot on a multi-function remote which could be programmed for the hardware you want to use. Maybe a smartphone-sized tablet-device is a viable pathway for that, with an IR transmitter and receiver. I am not sure that Bluetooth, or the semi-private radio link standards used by too many mice and keyboards, would be viable. Signals that go through walls may be a bad idea for controlling a media player.

Such hardware does exist now, but it is expensive. The programmable remotes with a list of code numbers in small print seem to be part of a system of continuous replacement using short-lived products.

Yeah, great, and we still feel like we're in a recession. This expensive stuff had better last.

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Re: What I want...

@Dave Bell "Re: Remotes".

Nope, I have an old Logitech 15-device remote control (well, two now that I bought an in-case-of extra) which is programmed via the Logitech website. Cost of remote? About AU$100 at the time (AU$80 for the backup). And because the settings are stored on Logitech's website, even if my remote loses power for an extended time (or breaks down), the entire setup can be reprogrammed in less than 5 minutes (including login time).

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Misunderestimated Market

I haven't been to CES in about a decade, but it used to be a major destination for us. I'm not trying to call BS on the analysts, but if you take this article and change the products and financial figures, it's nearly identical to every CES doom and gloom story that gets turned out every single year. There's always unprecedented circumstances that are going to make this year terrible. It'll be the worst year ever.

But the sky never falls. Market analysts who cover consumer markets in general, and consumer electronics specifically, always have radically inaccurate forecasts because they simply don't understand the market. They understand all sorts of numbers and have pretty charts but none of their formulas account for emotional purchases. If you don't understand emotional purchasing there's simply no possible way you'll ever be able to make sense out of the rest of the market.

Well over half of all consumer electronics purchases are made based on criteria developed internally by the purchaser in order to justify the purchase he's already decided to make. Those criteria are nearly always nonsensical and have no basis in reality. They buy 'Product (x)' and if you ask them why it will be information they were never presented with and/or for use in some outlandishly bizarre scenario that will never occur twice. They simply want the thing and are preparing in advance to defend their decision.

It doesn't make any sense, but Humans rarely do. It certainly isn't something you can plot on a bubble chart (I hate bubble charts) or begin to quantify. It's pure emotional reaction and you can't account for that. Why do you think there are so many products in every category? It sure as fuck isn't about giving the consumer choice. It's throwing everything imaginable at the consumer and trusting in the laws of probabilities that something will stick, eventually.

At any rate, it's obvious from the quotes that the people who made this prediction don't understand the market any better than they did 25 years ago. Don't worry consumers, there will continue to be unlimited ways to spend your money.

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Re: Misunderestimated Market

"It doesn't make any sense, but Humans rarely do. It certainly isn't something you can plot on a bubble chart (I hate bubble charts) or begin to quantify. It's pure emotional reaction and you can't account for that. Why do you think there are so many products in every category? It sure as fuck isn't about giving the consumer choice. It's throwing everything imaginable at the consumer and trusting in the laws of probabilities that something will stick, eventually."

Thing is, in making so many models, you have to pay for their manufacture. Meaning you're taking a gamble, plus with so many models you run the risk of overextending: making stuff that's not likely to sell and end up getting eaten. Also, things like TVs are tough to make good margins on, especially in a market like this with stiff competition.

As for myself, I seem to be in the minority, as I actually did the research when I bought my last TV (replaced a dying set). Once I decided on a size, I played the field, checked out the different manufacturers, different tiers of features, and so on. I also chose to wait. As it turns out, timing helps when it comes to TVs. It's best to buy a TV around February or March, the end of the model year. At that point, stores need to mark down older TVs to get them out to make room for new ones. This means plenty of bargains, and I eventually made my purchase then: a nice TV I had studied thoroughly.

I suppose there are different levels of X for "I want X". Some like me just say, "I want an X" and work from there; others say, "I want X, Y, Z right now!" I admit sometimes to being tempted by emotion and so on, but perhaps there's a Vulcan streak in me in that I've found myself needing to justify the purchase AND do so with a decent amount of reason; I've actually been able to curb my instincts and walk away from more then a few buys: usually because I learn something that allows me to go, "On second thought..."

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Re: Misunderestimated Market

Yes, the market is misunderstood, but not for the reasons you state. It's a variation on the computer industry Y2K bubble, and I don't understand why so many so-called professional analysts always miss it. Consumer electronics purchases over the last few years have been artificially inflated because pretty much everybody had to replace their tvs with the switch from NTSC/PAL/etc to HD. So it should be expected that sales volume should return to or dip below (because people replaced non-failing sets early) the trend line without the burst of forced replacement purchasing. And no, I don't think the industry could force another paradigm shift to start a replacement binge so soon after the last one.

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Re: Misunderestimated Market

Analysts aren't missing that. It's irrelevant for the purposes of both managing a business and forecasting the future so they don't account for it.

The reasons for past growth do not matter, only that growth occurred. It is your job as a business leader to figure out how to keep sales growing even if the game has changed. Terms like 'market saturation, regulatory changes, consumer sentiment', all those terms are excuses for why you failed to maintain revenue. You'll never hear a CEO who is driving a growing organization cite those sorts of things.

If you can't overcome the changes then you've failed. If all you had to do to run a large organization was collect monies coming from obsolescence then everyone would be running a company. Whether by increasing prices or new products and services you've got to keep revenue growing. Mess that up more than a couple of times and you'll be replaced as you aren't fit for purpose. Unable to cope with change.

There's no need to forecast that, it'll play out in real time as the company adapts or dies.

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Re: It's irrelevant for the purposes

It can't be irrelevant for the sector. If the sector is dying your forecasts should project that so you can re-engineer your business to a growing sector. As the forecasters who projected undiminished growth in the sales of buggy whips could tell you.

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You can't screw your employees on wages and expect consumer spending to climb. That and wearable computing devices still largely look like something strictly for dorks.

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Yes indeed toad warrior.

"You can't screw your employees on wages and expect consumer spending to climb."

However, this not new. The "Managerati" have been wilfully blind to that contradiction since the early days of mass production and the modern mass markets that it created.

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My take, over the last couple years ...

http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/446174

http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/950719

http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/1684284

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Anonymous Coward

While exciting new technologies...

such as ultra-high-definition [televisions] and wearable devices are being shown (sound of vomit), I happily carry on working on my 5 year old laptop, 2nd hand 6 year old server, and watching news on a 19-inch telly.

Ah, yes, and a 20 year old technics hi-fi system (then a middle to low range) plugs to the comp sounds fine, even though the tape recorder has long died.

ah, and also, and also... a 3 year old android smartfone (pretty useless), but does the job when I need a gps out there, in the wilderness of Londons and Manchesters.

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I am guessing TVs are the main thing on show at CES?

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@ khisanth

Probably not, but they are certainly a very large component of the market by dollar/pound/Euro volume. A high end tablet probably costs about the same as a low end tv, and people figure if they've going to drop that kind of money they may as well get something decent, especially since it should last them a good 10-15 years or more.

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FAIL

CES?

Why do journalists fawn over CES? CeBIT is where it's at.

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