Monday, January 9, 2012

A Move Away From Electronics?

Could people be getting tired of electronics?

It seems hard to imagine, but consider the signs from recent days.

  • Best Buy sold products at such low margins on Black Friday that it may have lost money that day.
  • Christmas-season sales of camcorders were down by almost half from the year before. Sales of televisions also declined, and the consumer electronics category as a whole is thought to have declined by a greater amount than just the usual year-over-year decline in prices.
  • Barnes & Noble is considering a spinoff of its e-book business.
  • The biggest story from the Consumer Electronics Show, where you would be hoping to hear about new gadgets, is that a real live kangaroo has been seen. There is a public discussion about whether the expo can continue in its current form beyond this year.
  • Viewers continue to flee television. The percent of people who watch at least one complete program on television in an average week fell below 50 percent in 2011, according to an Accenture survey.

It is the kangaroo story that especially gets my attention. A real kangaroo! It’s breathing! How did it get here? What will it do? These are questions you can’t so easily ask about the world of electronic gadgets, which with the recession-era slowdown in research and development has perhaps become a bit too static and predictable to hold people’s attention.