Chaos & Technology
John Buffone, Executive Director, Industry Analyst ;
Consumer Electronics Connected Intelligence Technology
As we embark on the holiday season, two distinct dynamics tend to converge: chaos; and new technology. Is your work done? Are you ready to take the week off between Christmas and New Year’s Day? Have you even started your holiday shopping? I can firmly say no to all of these questions, yet I’m sitting here writing a blog about this year’s trendy new devices. As you read on, I hope you spot a gift idea for that tech-crazed special someone on your list.
Holiday gift list for the tech geek:
- Consider picking up a pair of the new Spectacles from Snap. That is, if you’re lucky enough to live in a trendy town where Snap has embedded a pop-up kiosk offering you the privilege of standing in line for a couple of hours. Ah, demand creation genius. Simple, stylish, and a little bit retro; these $140 Wearables pick-up where Google Glass left off. Instead of a do-everything device, they do one thing well, recording a 10-second video and posting it to Snapchat. Let’s just say these made the list by being cool.
- Butler anyone? The technology is getting there and artificial intelligence is making its way into robots manufactured for the consumer retail market. But for this holiday season most of us will need to settle for a personal assistant. There are two primary choices here: Google Home; and Amazon Echo. Echo has the head start, and its Alexa voice assistant API is quickly finding its way into numerous other devices; yes an eco-system is forming. But don’t count Google out. The company’s deep integrated search data is critical as artificial intelligence is only as good as the data that informs it.
- A modern View-Master: after years of development, 2016 is the year virtual reality headsets will finally be under the Christmas tree. Entry level options include Google’s $15 cardboard, and $79 Daydream View. Those looking for high processing power and an immersive gaming experience can fork over $599 for the Oculus Rift PC-compatible headset, or $399 for Sony’s PlayStation 4-compatible VR. For the Samsung loyalist, Gear VR is compatible with newer Samsung mobile phones and offers a virtual reality experience for $99.
- Panoramas are so last year, but check out the new 360-degree cameras. Virtual reality headsets offer gaming and other entertainment experiences, so why not add a 360-degree camera and capture immersive videos as you head down the slopes this winter? Indeed, Samsung promotes the Gear 360 camera alongside its VR headset. This little accessory will set you back another $299 … no one ever said being an early adopter was economical.
- The NES Classic Edition, a $59 blast from the past comes with HDMI-inputs for our modern TVs. This updated version of the 1985 mega-hit game console comes with 30 of Nintendo’s most popular games built-in. Intentional or not, it’s priming the market for Mario’s return on the Nintendo Switch console coming in early 2017. As with Snap’s spectacles, the short supply is generating buzz and driving up the price. The least expensive one on Amazon today is $220. If this is the gift for you, consider doing what I did a couple of years ago and buy a refurbished original. You’re bound to have a few friends willing to pull their game collections out of the attic. For more on the NES launch check out my blog about being a Tech Luddite.
By now you’ve realized this is not a list of new products like 4K UHD TVs that will drive a large part of retail revenue this season. However, there are a few themes we’re seeing in the technology that are capturing consumer’s attention, including single-function use cases, integration of artificial intelligence, marketing strategies to facilitate demand creation, development of eco-systems, and a splash of retro design. Indeed, there was an industry message to this holiday gift list after all.