CES 2015: Global tech spending last year hit $1.024 trillion, up 1%

CES trade show kicks off in Las Vegas

CES is officially underway.

The annual technology trade show extravaganza kicked off Sunday afternoon with the usual back-to-back market research presentations: one on the big trends of the show, the other on the global technology landscape.

This year, more Web-connected products than ever will be on display, including tennis rackets, tea kettles and jewelry.

But the important question for developers today is not whether they can digitize a product, but whether they should, said Shawn DuBravac, chief economist of the Consumer Electronics Assn., which organizes CES.

"We have for a long time come to CES to see what's technologically possible, what's technologically feasible," DuBravac told a crowd of reporters at Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino. "But we're now shifting, and no longer is the focus on what technologically can be done, it's what is technologically meaningful."

With so many competing Internet-connected products vying for attention, many ultimately will fail.

The ones that don't will be those that not only provide information, but recommend new behavior to users. Products also benefit when they can adapt to events that have yet to happen: for instance, a new sprinkler system that connects to the Internet to find out when the next storm is on its way, and adjusts its watering output accordingly.

Smartwatches, one of the most talked-about Internet of Things categories, is expected to have a big year: CEA is predicting 10.8 million units will ship in 2015.

The tech association also revealed its estimate for global tech spending last year: $1.024 trillion, up 1%.

About 80% of that came from seven electronics categories: smartphones, tablets, digital still cameras, desktop PCs, mobile PCs, LCD TVs and mobile phones. 

Smartphones remained the big spending driver, particularly in China and other emerging countries. Average sales prices continue to fall and are expected to slip below $300 this year, fueled by low-cost smartphones manufactured by smaller players.

"What we're seeing is a number of these global brand incumbents, Samsung in particular, are really starting to feel the pressure from some of these emerging brands in the domestic Chinese market," said Steve Koenig, director of industry analysis at CEA.

But the domination of smartphones and tablets will likely wane as newer innovations -- smartwatches, health and fitness tech, smart homes and automotive technologies -- gain steam in the coming years. 

Follow Andrea Chang on Twitter.

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