The convention formerly known only as the Consumer Electronics Show has always had its share of the sacred and the silly. The officially dubbed 2014 International CES was no exception: barbecue-grille-cleaning robots, 18-carat-gold earphones, and stun gun iPhone cases. Fortunately, products representing legitimate new trends were there aplenty.
John R. Quain
Could serious high-fidelity equipment be making a comeback?
Hyped for years, wearable technology is finally emerging from its gestational geek stage. But it’s not in the form of multi-pocketed wired jackets or creepy glasses; wearable computing has arrived and will keep on coming in the form of smart watches.
For all the braying about the explosive growth in the tablet market--and the drop in PCsales--the personal computer is not dead, at least not yet. There are plenty of shoppers who still need a PC and are considering a Windows machine. You just need to know how to reach them.
While some of the mainstays of the electronics business have fallen out of favor with consumers, others are have taken their place ... with a vengeance.
In the future, cars may be driving themselves down the road, but for the rest of the year it’s all about connected vehicles.
The market for headphones has become a monster, with plenty of Beats knock-offs and models of every brand and stripe now crowding store shelves. With nearly every label offering $250 headphones, this year’s CE efforts to carve out a new section of the market are squarely aimed at delivering wireless models.
Product demos that attract throngs on the trade show floor don't always end up pulling crowds into stores. If they did, we'd all be using MiniDiscs and Palm Pre smartphones.
Certainly, this past 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show had its share of products that got a lot of attention but won't translate into retail success. There was a lot of noise about (and best-of accolades for) the Razer Edge gaming system, for example. But starting at $999 it's unlikely to be a success, especially because casual gaming on smartphones and tablets is eviscerating the console market. And Windows 8 laptops were well represented at the show but will likely continue to get a lukewarm response from consumers.
How do you solve a problem like Windows 8?
A major advertising and marketing campaign for a major software release—from the major computer software company in the world, no less—receives little more than a lackluster response from consumers and businesses. So while retailers should approach Windows 8 and its associated hardware with caution, they may still eke out some gains by offering systems that have been specifically designed for the new operating system.
Unlike some previously disastrous introductions, such as Windows Vista and Windows Millennium Edition, there are no glaring flaws in the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system. Users haven’t been plagued by hardware compatibility issues as they have in the past, or faced with major software upgrades to make programs work with the new OS. And cost hasn’t been an obstacle. Microsoft offers an upgrade version of the software for just $40.
Making the most of the biggest sporting event of the year no longer means having the biggest, baddest screen on the block. Football fans and Super Bowl dilettantes alike are looking to reach out and expand the social aspect of fandom beyond the living room.
This year, in addition to state-of-the-art flat screens and sound systems, retailers need to acknowledge the networking trend with gadgets that connect viewers to Facebook friends, streaming online services, and mobile apps that integrate home video and audio gear with smartphones and tablets.Whether it’s indignation at a blown call or celebratory shout-outs when their team scores, football fans want to share the games not only with those around them, but with friends and family miles away. This leads to the increased use of second screens—like tablets—so that viewers can follow friends’ comments on Facebook, or trends on Twitter, while watching the game.
In every market—good, bad or indifferent—there are companies and products that manage, in spite of the odds, to deliver something new that changes either the way we think about entertainment, or the way the competition thinks about particular products.
Organizers, market analysts and exhibitors at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair all say business is not shrinking.
Judging by the thousands of companies touting their wares at the sprawling 32nd Hong Kong Electronics Fair (Autumn Edition) the emphasis this coming year will underscore the power of connected smart TVs, over the top streaming media players, and accessories that continued to leverage the power of smart phones and tablets.
Portable speakers were once an accessory afterthought. Audio fidelity was hardly a priority and one was lucky if the volume levels could fill a bathroom. But a new generation of Bluetooth speakers now offers vastly improved sound quality and features that will appeal to 20-something smartphone addicts and grizzled road warriors.
No one wants to be tied down when they’re using a smart phone or tablet, even when they’re playing music on it. But there’s no reason for your customers to worry, thanks to a growing roster of wireless speakers on the market that will help them cut the cables.
Portable speakers were once an accessory afterthought. Audio fidelity was hardly a priority and one was lucky if the volume levels could fill a bathroom. But a new generation of Bluetooth speakers now offers vastly improved sound quality and features that will appeal to 20-something smart phone addicts and grizzled road warriors.
The best consumer electronics products don’t simply boast the finest features in a given category. They are also exemplars of a significant trend that represent a shifting landscape in the market. And what shifts there were last year.
Setting up a wireless Wi-Fi router is about as much fun as chewing tin foil. But, like it or not, these devices are essential to a home entertainment system and customers need to understand how they work—and how they don’t work—in certain scenarios.
Not just for computers any longer, wireless routers connect everything from the family iPad to game consoles and smart TVs to the Web. Consumers expect to access online services like Netflix, Hulu and Pandora from every room in the house. Routers are responsible for handling the traffic. But if they aren’t set up properly, video streams will stall and neighbors may take a free ride on a customer’s network. Or worse.
Customers need to understand what they are buying and sales associates need to set expectations by educating buyers.