Huge Ramp Up for Mobile CE Devices: Report
The wide deployment of broadband is going to kick start shipments of a new class of consumer electronics devices over the next few years, according to a just-released report by ABI Research. The market research firm projects shipments of broadband-enabled consumer electronics (CE) devices will grow a whopping 55-fold between 2008 and 2014.
The kind of devices covered by this projection includes the emerging class of eBook readers, mobile digital cameras and camcorders, personal media players (PMPs), personal navigation devices (PNDs), and mobile gaming devices. ABI Research forecasts total shipments of these devices will reach 58 million in 2014.
"You're already looking at about two million eBook readers connected this year  like the Amazon Kindle and that number will continue to grow," ABI Research Senior Analyst Jeff Orr told InternetNews.com.
Another category set for growth are the PNDs, though those are seeing the most interest in Western Europe, he said. "These PNDs are used by taxi and vehicle fleets and applications where time is money," said Orr, who added PNDs will likely find even bigger markets in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan over the next several years.
While carriers race to feed demand with faster networks, Orr said speed is not necessarily a key issue for some of these devices. He notes AT&T recently unveiled a digital photo frame that's tied to an electronic service that feeds blocks of images to the frame on a regular basis. "This is over the 2G network which is broadly available and more than adequate for his kind of content," he said.
Another example is eBook readers. "You don't need the latest 3G or 4G modems to provide a very good experience on an eBook reader in many parts of the world where the mobile data networks aren't the fastest," said Orr.
"All the device vendors are saying they can download a full book in under a minute, that's just text going to the device. So that means the manufacturers can keep the cost low and run these devices in more places around the world where 2G is prevalent," he added.
New devices and the Apple factor
On the other hand, high speed networks are needed for more advanced digital applications including video. Even with 4G networks, Orr thinks uploading video from these CE devices will remain a cumbersome and slow process. "That's why we still see video cameras with lots of local storage," he said. "The speed you can upload as opposed to receive video is slower."
This week's Consumer Electronics Show is likely to see many new devices and form factors, said Orr. "It wouldn't surprise me to see new form factors and tablets designed for use in the kitchen or the coffee table or, on the business side, maybe something that replaces the traditional clipboard," he said.
As for Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) rumored release of a tablet later this month, Orr said it's hard to say at this point what the impact will be.
"It's a big question what Apple will do," said Orr. "Will they come out with an eBook reader that does more than read books, or a full computer? And will the interface be closer to the iPhone or the MacBook? It's all conjecture at this point."