Guest Column - January/February 2011

Consumer Electronics Roundup: What to Look for in 2011

By Jackie Bardenwerper

In 2010, holiday cheer came to many consumers in the form of electronics. Tablet PCs, e-readers, home computers and smart phones topped the list for the season's hottest gifts as Americans invested in innovative and practical items for work, school and play.

With a recent retail survey from mall media specialist EYE electronics reporting that more than 82 percent of consumers cannot live without their electronics, it is not surprising that consumer electronics continues to remain a bright spot in a still-sluggish economy.

But what hot products will we be coveting in 2011? And what does this mean for the premium incentive industry? We've surveyed some of the biggest names in consumer electronics to find out where we've been and where we're headed.

The 2010 Takeaway: Connection

Consumer electronics in 2010 were all about connection. New ways to connect with your personal network. New ways to access content.

Nowhere was this shift more evident than in the e-reader category. A few years back in 2008, e-books comprised less than 1 percent of the entire publishing industry. Today, they make up more than 6 percent. This trend was fueled not only by the introduction of new computer tablets, but by thinner, more lightweight readers that connect consumers to ever-growing libraries of books, magazines and newspapers through Wi-Fi and 3G networks.

One example includes the Reader Daily Edition by Sony, which includes Wi-Fi and 3G access, can hold up to 50,000 books, and weighs only 9.6 ounces, making it an easy-to-transport, green alternative for connecting with published material. As e-readers continue to evolve and add features, we expect this trend to continue in 2011 and beyond.

As people looked to share experiences and connect with friends, family and colleagues, portable camcorders, such as those developed by Flip Video, also emerged as industry leaders. As small as a smart phone, these video cameras let users record and share videos instantly through computer-ready MP4 files that are uploaded using a built-in USB. Flip Video's pre-loaded FlipShare software also makes it easy to organize, edit and share videos by sending either attachment-free e-mail or posting videos to Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. With models such as the Flip Video UltraHD and MinoHD flying off the shelves in 2010, we see this category expanding in 2011, as cameras become more user- and computer-friendly.

Along with camcorders, portable GPS navigation units continued to dominate the market as new technology encouraged millions of Americans to throw out their roadmaps and connect to their directions via satellite. According to Garmin, much of this growth was fueled by the addition of new features available on models like the Garmin nuvi 3790LMT, which includes voice-activated navigation, 3-D buildings and terrain, and lifetime map and traffic updates that alert drivers of upcoming delays.

According to Garmin, in 2010 shoppers focused more on technology than price point, often purchasing more expensive units that included updates on traffic conditions, the latest maps and even hands-free mobile phone calling. Garmin expects this trend to continue throughout 2011 as enhanced junction views, voice recognition software and lifetime traffic and map updates are introduced on more affordable Garmin models such as the Garmin nuvi 2360LMT.