By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
TWICE:Do you agree that young people are driving demand for the media server as entertainment hub?
Ross Rubin, NPD Techworld: Yes, it's generational. They have a huge comfort level with the PC. Also, increased penetration of broadband is helping it. It's enabling some of these living room content opportunities that wouldn't have been possible.
Don Carroll,RadioShack: It's definitely generationally pushed. The youth are driving the change in the marketplace. We see parents bringing their kids in to help them pick out the technology. The kid goes home and installs it.
Tony Weiss,CompUSA: It's a great new source of cheap labor [laughter].
Judy Quye,Tweeter: Young people are willing, with a bunch of devices, to participate with technology wherever it is.
TWICE:But is TV among them? Is it as important to them as it was to their parents?
Quye: I think youth is attracted to everything that's going on with video, from the smaller form factor to the HD sports experience that you get from DLP. They're the primary gamers of the world. If you've ever played a game on big-screen technology, it doesn't matter what age you are — it's fun. I have no fear that the whole TV and video business is going to grow in every generation.
Rubin: The younger generations also have a love affair with television, but they think of it as more of a product open to multiple kinds of entertainment rather than the three channels that many Americans grew up with.
Carroll: We've done research, and this is well-known in the industry, but young people are multitaskers. They'll watch TV while surfing the Web while listening to their Apple iPod. They're vast consumers of digital content. It's going to depend on their reference point. What we're talking about is where does the brain of the modern hub sit? In the den with the PC or in the living room on the TV?
Doug Moore,Circuit City: Or is it everywhere?
Carroll: That's the challenge for a lot of the OEMs: how do you get to be everywhere and make it easy? They're going to be demanding customers, from a youth marketing standpoint. They've never not known a computer. Think about the people in this room. The fear of technology came from, “I bought a computer. Gee, if I press the right button, is it going to work?”
But young people will push any button on there without hesitating. The era of mass consumption from people who are no longer fearful of technology is upon us.
Rubin: The phenomenon of the changes in attitude toward experimentation is going to have a huge impact on manufacturers, who are used to designing stand-alone interfaces for isolated products. There's nothing wrong with specialized products. They're great and have a lot of strength in the marketplace, but the next generation is expecting consistency. That's something manufacturers have to do a better job of.
Frank Sadowski,Amazon.com: I totally agree with all the generational comments. There are two applications that haven't come together in the adult population in the United States. It's the difference between entertainment products and productivity products, and the big crossover, without question, is music.
The reason for that is that music has become a personal experience instead of a group experience. I don't want to date myself, but when a new album came out, all my friends used to sit down and listen to it a couple of times all the way through in a living room on a stereo.
Component audio is not a music product, it's a video product. Music has become a personalized experience. Kids listen to it generally on their computer speakers, boombox, iPod or in their automobile, but not with their families or friends in the living room. If anything, that's background music at this point.
Will it come to a point where content is not contained on shiny discs? Yes, because the new generation — the kids who have never not had a computer — is the first to accept that all this stuff is just files. They intrinsically understand it, whereas those of us who can remember when there weren't computers have to get over it.
It was suggested that possibly the younger generation is watching less TV. The data shows that TV viewership is at an all-time high: more hours per week than ever before in history, and growing fast. Clearly, young people are not moving away from television. And unless they're watching in a dorm room, most are not watching it on a computer. I believe it will happen, but there's no strong evidence yet that people are willing to separate productivity products from entertainment products, with the exception of music, which again is a personal experience.
Entertainment networking will definitely start with music and move from there. But as retailers, we can really go into the weeds if we start trying to market products that there isn't a need for yet.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.