Page last updated at 14:45 GMT, Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Tech fair offers greener vision

By Mark Ward
Technology correspondent, Las Vegas

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Some of the gadgets on show at CES unveiled

In the near future, the "greenness" of a gadget will have a big influence on whether consumers will buy it, suggests research published as CES begins.

Consumers will soon look for more information about the environmental impact of a gadget and how it was made.

Published by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), it suggests people will pay more for truly green products.

But, it warned, consumers are very sceptical about the green claims made by hi-tech firms for their products.

"Green is becoming a purchasing factor," said Steve Koening, director of industry analysts at the CEA, which organises the giant annual Consumer Electronics Show.

CEA research found that consumers were becoming increasingly curious about how products are made and packaged, whether the processes involved were environmentally friendly and what provision is made to recycle a product once it became obsolete, he said.

"More than half are willing to pay a little more for 'green'," said Mr Koening. "22% said they were willing to pay up to 15% more for it."

But, he said, this conversion to environmental causes went hand-in-hand with a demand for more information about green gadgets.

More than 38% of those interviewed by the CEA said they were confused by green product claims and 58% wanted to know the specific attributes that prompted hi-tech firms to label their products green.

Many, said Mr Koening, were also very sceptical about the claims many manufacturer's made for their products.

Clear trends

The CEA research tried to identify key trends in consumer purchasing for the next four years. Alongside a desire for more green technologies went desires to do away with wires, have the internet embedded in everything and a wish to gain more control over gadgets.

Projected growth in 2009
Organic LED devices - 149%
E-readers - 110%
HD flash camcorders - 106%
Netbooks - 80%
Climate systems, smart thermostats - 71%
Next-generation DVD - 62%
Ultrahigh refresh rate LCD TVs - 57%
Car navigation systems - 52%
Wireless mp3 players - 41%
Set-top box home theatre - 30%
Source: CEA

One clear trend, said Mr Koening, was a demand for more products to be untethered and use wireless technologies wherever possible.

With this, he said, went a growing desire to be virtually tethered by the services and content available via these wireless, portable gadgets.

And, he said, whatever people are carrying around they definitely want it connected to the internet so they can keep in touch with friends and family or get at all the digital content they subscribe to, own or have generated themselves.

The final trend was a greater demand for control over gadgets, said Mr Koening. Instead of just relying on keyboard and mouse, consumers will want innovative ways, such as voice and gesture controls, that let them get more out of their hi-tech toys.

"It's about getting access to the ecosystem of products we have built up in our homes," he said.

Together the four trends look set to keep electronics hugely popular with consumers and help the industry buck the gloomy economic conditions, said Mr Koening.

'A necessity'

CEA economist Shawn DuBravac said: "Consumers are spending more of their money on technology purchases. It's helping bridge their personal and private lives.

"Consumer electronics are a necessity not a luxury; even though we have a background of economic catastrophe, enthusiasm for consumer electronics remains robust."

Wires (EyeWire)
Consumers want as few of these as possible

Tim Herbert, senior director of research for CEA, said although consumer spending on home electronics would not hit the highs seen in recent years it looked set to remain positive.

"We do expect a slowing in 2009 but, relative to other sectors, the consumer electronics industry will outperform," he said.

Growth in 2009 should hit 4.3%, said Mr Herbert, compared to 13.7% in 2008.

Over the last few years, said Mr Herbert, consumers have splashed out on the big expensive items such as large flat panel TVs and game consoles and now were hungry to do something with their purchases.

For instance, he said, in the games industry sales from software looked set to significantly outstrip sales of hardware such as consoles and handheld players in 2009 and beyond.

"It's important for the industry to understand how content and services interplays with the hardware side of the business," said Mr Herbert. "We have built an enormous installed base that will be hungry for content."



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