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Electronics Industry Pushes Innovation, Reaps Rewards

With a rotating cast of new products to amaze and tempt consumers, the electronics industry is reaping big revenues.

Lisa A. Bastian (November 2010)
Besides a penchant for fast cars and even faster women, the fictional James Bond wowed audiences with his technologically advanced electronics. Today, the booming electronics industry is making futuristic devices that are more powerful and exciting than anything the super spy used.

These advances are changing every part of our lives, from how we socialize, entertain ourselves, and educate our children, to how we gather information, do business, and protect our nation from physical and cyber attacks.

Nearly every month, companies announce the debut of another exciting electronics product - as well as amazing R&D that furthers the development of mind-blowing electronics that seemed impossible to produce only a decade ago.

This fall, scientists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov won the 2010 Nobel Prize in physics for their groundbreaking experiments with graphene, a two-dimensional material. A one-atom-thick sheet of special carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb crystal lattice, this nano material can be used as a conductor or a semiconductor due to its unique electronic properties. Graphene will be integral to the production of future nanoscale electronic devices. Georgia Tech scientists have already developed a "transistor growth technique" for graphene, which paves the way for the accelerated use of the material in the electronics industry.

Consumer Electronics on the Upswing
The $165 billion U.S. consumer electronics (CE) industry is working overtime to drive America's economy into recovery. In September, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) announced that the industry "will exceed initial revenue projections for 2010, with growth of 3 percent over 2009 and overall shipment revenues of $174.9 billion in the United States." With more than 2,000 members, the Arlington, Virginia-based CEA tracks sales data, forecasts, consumer research, and historic trends for the CE industry.

Industry shipment revenues will increase 4 percent to an all-time high of more than $182 billion by 2011, according to CEA's semi-annual U.S. Consumer Electronics Sales and Forecast from July 2010. "Innovation in the CE industry is driving consumer enthusiasm, orchestrating a turnaround for our industry, and bolstering the overall U.S. economy," says Gary Shapiro, CEA president and CEO. "The response to innovative new products like tablet computers and 3D displays, and continued growth of other product categories, illustrate that consumers love technology. The freedom to innovate delights consumers, sustains our industry, and strengthens the economy."

The latest forecast increases CEA estimates for 2010 shipment revenues, last updated in January 2010, by more than $9 billion. Much of the industry growth is attributed to 3D televisions, smart phones, Blu-ray players, e-readers, and mobile computing solutions such as tablets that will contribute billions of dollars to the industry's bottom line this year.

"The January edition of the forecast was cautiously optimistic about the industry's return to growth this year," says Steve Koenig, CEA director of industry analysis. "Despite a relatively sluggish first half, these innovative product categories have generated a great deal of consumer interest. As a result, we see a stronger second half demand unfolding, and we anticipate a robust holiday quarter."

The mobile computing category is expected to see a robust 2010 and become the main revenue earner for the CE industry by 2011. CEA expects mobile computing - which includes laptops, netbooks, and tablet computers - to post over $26 billion in shipment revenues by next year. Tablet PCs will drive most of the computing category growth as more firms enter the marketplace.

Also experiencing steady growth are wireless handsets. CEA expects them to add $26 billion to industry revenue by 2011. "Smart phones continue to be the key driver, with more than 54 million units expected to ship in 2010, an increase of nearly 31 percent. By 2011, more than 66 million smart phones will ship to dealers, generating $19.6 billion in revenue."
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