By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
As the portable digital device universe explodes (see p. 34), peripheral keyboards used for data entry will grow almost 7 percent through 2008, according to a study published by Venture Development (VDC), an independent technology market research and strategy consulting firm.
In 2004, North American after-market keyboard consumption by primary applications totaled $188.1 million, with peripherals, namely PC/workstation/laptop, accounting for 67 percent of dollar volume; portable and handheld devices, 17 percent; home entertainment/media center PCs, 9.2 percent; and gaming, 6.8 percent.
Keyboards for portable and handheld applications currently represent 17 percent of total North American consumption of after-market keyboards, but as demand rises in this segment, it is likely there will be a an increase in keyboards of various form factors for these applications, said VDC.
Factors driving growth in this segment include mobile and handheld devices such as pocket PCs and PDAs. Current input devices are not satisfactory, according to the study. As the trend toward miniaturization continues for these devices, some important data-entry features, such as a full-sized Qwerty keyboard, have been sacrificed. This leaves the user with ineffective keypads or miniscule Qwerty keyboards that greatly reduce typing speed.
The proliferation of Bluetooth wireless technology gives vendors of auxiliary keyboards for mobile and handheld devices another point of competitive advantage in product marketing.
A couple of important issues are hindering widespread adoption of these keyboards, said VDC, including price. Retails on foldable keyboards for PDAs currently range from $60 to $150, and for many users this cost is simply unjustifiable, said the study.
Lack of sturdiness, or flimsiness, is still a major complaint of foldable keyboards, said VDC. Since these devices will be carried around and used extensively, they need to employ a more durable design, it stated.
Said analysts at VDC: “A key advantage of portable and handheld devices is the possibility of mobile communications. However, as these devices become smaller, users are forced to compromise between their mobility and effectiveness as a data communications device.
“Consumers desperately need a convenient, effective and integrated data-entry mechanism for these devices. It is expected that over the next couple of years, there will be a significant increase in the number of vendors who will try to address this issue with a variety of creative products,” according to study initiators.
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