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HKTDC Hong Kong Electronics Fair (Spring Edition) Industry Insights
Keep Taking The Tablets

Global buyers are set to snap up 29-35 million tablet computers during the coming 12 months, an industry expert told an HKTDC Electronics Fair (Spring Edition) seminar on “The Trend of Consumer Electronics: Smart Opportunities for Industry”.

Tablets were the most visible trend at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, said Shawn DuBravac, the Chief Economist and Director of Research for the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) that hosts the annual extravaganza.

“There were some 100-plus tablets on display,” he observed. “However, details such as launch dates, price and Wi-Fi and cellular options were still sparse for many of them.”

Hand in hand with the phenomenal growth of a product that was virtually unknown a couple of years ago is an equally rapid rise in the sales of e-readers, which are expected to break the 19 million sales mark this year. “Adding elements such as colour and games to e-readers could make them tablets in disguise for the same market,” Mr DuBravac added.

Another major theme at CES was 3D, which, as predicted, went “well beyond” TVs to include cameras, portable BD players, monitors and laptops. “Passive 3D on polarised screens made a strong showing, although auto stereoscopic looks more viable as a home entertainment technology,” Mr DuBravac said.

OEMs are addressing early hurdles to 3D adoption by releasing products that require glasses to view polarised and auto stereoscopic displays and adding the technology to digital cameras and camcorders.

“These launches show we are still early in the adoption cycle,” Mr DuBravac explained. “There will be an upswing in sales in 2012 or 2013 as the technology becomes a more common feature.”
Other major product trends include jumbo phones with 4.3-inch plus screens taking centre stage, leading to a blurring of the line between phones and tablets and phones and computers.

“There is an equally strong focus on 4G from OEMs and carriers in the US, while specifications are moving towards ‘superphones’ that incorporate dual-core processors and larger RAM, built-in and expandable memory and batteries,” Mr DuBravac noted.

Elsewhere, sensors are increasingly being added to devices, with capacitive and resistive touch screens, cameras, compasses and microphones becoming common.

Additional elements such as pressure sensors will become more prevalent this year, Mr DuBravac predicted. “We will see lots of new uses such as speakers integrated with sensors to measure sound degradation,” he predicted. “Sensors capturing a tremendous amount of previously uncaptured information will drive future hardware needs and service offerings.”

One such sensor-driven innovation already on the market is the Anti Sleep Pilot, which uses 26 scientific parameters to continuously calculate driver fatigue and maintain alertness via regular simple tests.

The Anti Sleep Pilot is a classic illustration of what Mr DuBravac described as the 171 million connected devices sold in 2010 forming part of a major push to make everything “smart”.

“Machine-to-machine communication begets machine-to-machine decision-making,” he explained. “This involves the creation and capture of data, often leveraging the sensorisation of technology.”

Examples include Vitality+ATT Glowcaps that call a mobile phone if the user forgets to take a pill, the Samsung Smart Hom-Bot home robot and the Samsung Smart Fridge.

These all rely on the clever combination of applications and hardware that is becoming commonplace in today’s increasingly interconnected world.

“Smart today means connected or some market opportunity, but in 2012 and beyond it will have a greater focus on machine-to-machine communication and intelligent recommendations,” Mr DuBravac predicted.

Gesture control, a trend that has been building for several years, will be “everywhere” at the 2012 CES, as will near-invisible TV bevels. “Price declines for TVs have made a wall of panels closer to reality, and 2012 CES will focus on walls of panels designed for home settings,” Mr DuBravac said.

The entire app ecosystem will be bigger in 2012, content discovery will be a key theme on smart devices well positioned to make recommendations and audio will be the strongest it has been in years.

“Services like Twitter and Facebook that easily convey a connected platform but are not best positioned for the large screen will move off the TV to the phone or tablet,” Mr DuBravac concluded.

“Interactive TV will also move to the handheld device and there will be greater exploration of tying multiple devices together during simultaneous media consumption.”