We are two days into the second boondoggle of the year (National Retail Federation’s “Big Show” takes top honors), the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The prominent theme of what’s on display is already clear.
We are now at a moment where the biggest “electronics” innovations are not new devices, but the ability to move information between them – without cables or wires – wirelessly. As if, oddly enough, each device on its own was not satisfactory. We fully expect by the end of CES 2013 to have seen this scenario:
1) You don’t want to drive while staring at your smartphone screen, so Company A has the technology to beam phone info to the graphics screen on your dashboard.
2) You want to share your trip with your family, so Company B lets you beam the info on your car screen to your TV at home.
3) Your family could give a rats as& about your trip, and instead wants to watch a regular TV program (remember those?), so Company C introduces technology that lets them beam the TV data to your laptop.
4) You want all your laptop data to be with you at all times, so Company D transmits it – wirelessly – to your smartphone. Which you are holding in your hand as you drive your car!
Realizing you are caught in an infinite data loop, your head explodes.
The consumer electronics market blew up in 2012. Research firm NPD reported that holiday sales of “core” electronics (leaving out tablets and smartphones) fell 7% in 2012, the third year in a row that sales slowed as the season progressed.
[The Consumer Electronics Association, which does count tablets and smartphones, released its own data at the start of CES 2013, saying 2012 was up 5%. Yet it forecasts a scant 3% increase for 2013.]
Remember e-readers? Stunning technology that, just six years in, appears finished. Research firm IHS iSuppli claims that worldwide shipments of e-readers fell 36% last year.
In a make or break year for the CE industry, we see a lot of stuff that doesn’t follow true innovation principles at all:
- Little new ground covered; just topping off the near-full tech buckets
- Nothing grounded in consumer “wants and needs” insights
The latter should scare any consumer electronics executive half to death. Especially as another study from NPD revealed that two-thirds of U.S. consumers say they don’t want any new devices. We are, apparently, “teched out.”
For those of us of a certain age, we were told as children that we would live like the Jetsons when we got (much) older. It looks like, based on what’s transpired at CES 2013, we will simply be chasing Astro’s tail.