Many consumers use tablets solely at home and not as a mobile device

New technologies and old cars damp US market for standard TV sets

Consumer Electronics Association data shows high-end (plasma) or immature (3D and Internet-connected) tend to be ahead.

In its 2011 mid-year forecast, the CEA said in late June that while some categories are strongly ahead, they tend to be those that are either high-end (plasma) or immature (3D and Internet-connected).

Shawn DuBravac, the CEA’s chief economist, noted that while CE is faring better than more traditional categories, there is concern that pent-up demand for automotive purchases could eat into its sales. The average US family car is now 10 years old.

LCD, which is becoming the mainstay of the US TV market, suffered a 3.5 per cent drop in April. By contrast, plasma has been up 5.5 per cent (against a forecast 4.6 per cent).

The CEA now believes that 3.3 million 3D sets could be sold by the end of the year. Internet-enabled TVs are on course for 6.3 million sales against a forecast 5.2 million. In both cases, however, these are relatively modest numbers compared with the overall size of the US market.

There is also the prospect that rapid adoption of tablets may be cannibalising purchases of smaller screen-size regular TVs.

The CEA expects 42 million tablets to be sold this year against an originally forecast 35 million, but DuBravac noted significant differences in the expected use model.

Specifically, many consumers see tablets as domestic rather than mobile. “Many of them use the product at home or where they have a static Wi-Fi connection. Few use them at work or travelling,” DuBravac said.

His comments echoed the view of Rich Beyer, CEO of Freescale Semiconductor, one of the main suppliers of tablet silicon.

At his company’s Freescale Technology Forum in June, Beyer ruled out competing for large OEM designs in cellular tablets on the grounds that the Wi-Fi-based ‘white box’ market remains strong and efforts to win OEM contracts are likely to turn into a bloodbath for suppliers.

The CEA data also suggests that energy management, one of the ‘green’ sectors seen as potentially driving future CE growth, has yet to gain much traction.

In a survey, the association found that while 60 per cent of consumers are concerned about levels of electricity consumption, only 36 per cent are aware of energy management programmes and just 10 million of 119 million US households have enrolled in them.

“Our survey found there is little difference in the bills of those enrolled in electricity management programmes and those who are not, which indicates further development by industry, utilities and government is needed to realise the vision of a smart grid that could bring about more meaningful cost savings to consumers,” said Steve Koenig, CEA’s director of industry analysis.

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