Tablet sales to "double this Christmas"

Hoping for a tablet this Christmas? You may be in luck

16 Nov 2012

Tablet sales will more than double this Christmas, grabbing the largest slice of the consumer electronics market.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) - the group that hosts the International CES, the massive tech show in Las Vegas every January - expects 32m will be sold in the US alone over the Christmas period, up 112% from last year.

On the other hand, rival products such as TVs and games consoles will witness a decline in sales. "Tablets and smartphones will dominate the holiday season in the US, UK and the rest of the world," said CEA analyst Shawn DuBravac, noting the devices top wishlists of surveyed users - coming above even money and, rather selfishly, world peace.

DuBravac revealed 16% of people said tablets topped their wishlist, followed by smartphones at 8%, laptops at 7% and ereaders at 4%.

Tablets and smartphones will dominate the holiday season in the US, UK and the rest of the world

According to the CEA's research, 76% of people it surveyed intend to buy consumer electronics of some sort for gifts during the holidays - steady with previous years.

Some of that shopping may be via so-called "Black Friday" sales. In the US, the day after Thanksgiving is a major shopping day, a trend that's growing outside of the US, and spreading to the UK. "Amazon has been a big influence in bringing Black Friday-like deals to the UK," fellow CEA analyst Steve Koenig said.

Asked if high street stores can compete - with Comet's recent troubles firmly in view - Koenig said "there's a lot of life lift in retail" but warned Comet's sale as it liquidates could affect other retailers.

CES companies

This year's International CES kicks off 8 January - with PC Pro on the ground at the show - and will be increasingly focused on mobile devices, said DuBravac, saying there's still innovation possible in new form factors. "Manufactures will start to differentiate themselves," he said.

While the CEA was bullish on mobile, it stepped back from 3D - an area of tech it's previously pushed. While DuBravac said 3D devices had seen slow growth, he claimed it was "ramping" up. However, he admitted "not everyone is buying 3D to get 3D, but they're buying high-end TVs".

"It's not a technology intended for everyone," he noted, with fellow analyst Koenig adding: "We never expected it to be a full-time, universally-used viewing option".

Microsoft return?

Microsoft announced last year it wouldn't be returning to CES this year, with a stand or as one of the keynote speakers, handing its long-running slot to Qualcomm.

The CEO of the CEA, Gary Shapiro, said larger companies normally need to book for the following year just as the current show begins, and couldn't say if Microsoft was returning for the following year. "I don't know what they [Microsoft] will be doing in 2014, but either way we'd like to have them back," he said, noting Microsoft was still sponsoring the show, with representatives attending.

He pointed out that floor space was fully sold out, but noted other companies have pulled out - notably BlackBerry. "Companies come and go, that's a fact."

While Julian David, director general of UK IT group Intellect, tried to draw Shapiro on whether CES would ever be hosted in London - or in the "UK's own version of Las Vegas", Blackpool - Shapiro would only say "you never know".

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