Well, here's some good economic news. The Consumer Electronics Association is predicting the industry will have stronger-than-anticipated sales growth this year, thanks to tablets, smartphones and e-readers.
According to the CEA, the industry is expected to have more than $190 billion in shipment revenues in 2011, which represents a growth of 5.6% -- up from the 3.5% the group had forecast for the year in January. The group also projects 2012 revenues of $197 billion.
The robust forecast is led by sales of so-called "mobile connected devices," such as tablets, smartphones and e-readers. Tablets -- which were a virtually nonexistent category last year -- are projected to grow 157% this year, with more than 26.5 million units shipping and $14 billion in revenues. Smartphones will continue to be the primary revenue driver for the industry, with a projected 45% increase in unit shipments and $23 billion in revenue. Meanwhile, e-reader units are predicted to double, with more than 16.5 million units shipping, resulting in $1.8 billion in revenues.
"Virtually every product is being overshadowed by these mobile connected devices," Steve Koenig, the CEA's director of industry analysis, tells Marketing Daily. "Those are the products that are in demand. There's a lot of value, and the utility of these devices -- especially for smartphones and tablets -- with [the availability of] apps, is infinite."
Even in the so-called mature categories, connectivity reigns king. Although digital display sales overall are expected to fall about 10% to $18.2 billion (about 88% of U.S. households currently own a digital television, according to the CEA, making it a fairly mature category), network-enabled displays are a strong spot, with an estimated 10.4 million displays expected to ship this year, Koenig says.
"We think roughly one in three sets will be network-enabled, either with a port or embedded apps in them," Koenig says.
Similarly, 3D televisions will see better-than-expected growth this year with about 3.6 million sets shipping, up from January's projected 1.9 million units. That increase, however, is less about consumer demand for the technology and more a reflection that more displays are incorporating it as a standard feature, Koenig says.
"We still think the real true market opportunity for 3D TV [is] still probably a year or two out," Koenig says. "It's all about the content, and there's more content coming this year, but it will take time to see when we hit the real critical mass for that content."