A tightrope hit for the Hawks

The Consumer Electronic Show (CES), the annual meeting of consumer electronics in Las Vegas, opens its doors on Thursday in a somber context.

The branch anticipates a drop in household spending, in a context of inflation and redundancies, while continuing to face supply difficulties.

From the 5th to the 8th of January, more than 100,000 professionals from 100 countries are expected at the luxury hotels in the American city, for a major communication operation around ultra-connected devices and services. In all, the stands will occupy more than 20 hectares. But the frequency remains lower than before the health crisis.

“The 2023 edition represents a new step towards a return to normality, to pre-pandemic levels”, guarantees Steve Koenig, vice president responsible for research at the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which organizes the CES. In 2021, the solemn mass was held online only. And in 2022, “we made the bold decision to go back in person,” recalls Steve Koenig. But the room was a shadow of itself, with many empty rooms.

This year, TV makers, automakers and cutting-edge AI startups are back in droves. South Korean giant Samsung, in particular, made CES its showcase for the American market. On Tuesday, he highlighted washing machines that assess the level of soiling and determine the amount of detergent needed.

The company is also working on the design of an oven with an integrated camera to monitor cooking live or record a video of the soufflé taking shape, a function designed especially for influencers on social networks.

“Deflationary Force”

CES has also become one of the most important auto shows, with announcements from BMW, Stellantis and Sony, among others. “The days of CES being all about TVs, laptops and connected home devices are over,” notes Thomas Husson, an analyst at Forrester.

“Now that the software is built into every device, brands are showcasing innovations in electric vehicles, robotics and applied artificial intelligence.” CTA is betting on technologies to recover the economy, such as smartphones or high-speed internet in the past.

“This time around, the new waves of digital change that will stave off inflation and drive growth will come from business,” Steve Koenig told a conference, referring in particular to robots that will make factories more efficient and automated farm machinery. The technology increases productivity, thereby reducing production costs, and is therefore “a deflationary force for the global economy,” said Gary Shapiro, chairman of the CTA.

Companies will have to choose their arguments carefully, however, as rising prices and post-pandemic saturation reduce consumer spending. The CTA estimates that US technology sector revenues (cars, televisions, mobile apps, etc.) will fall to US$485 billion in 2023, from US$512 billion in 2021, a record year.

“The looming recession and inflation will weigh on domestic budgets,” the organization noted in a statement, “but technology industry revenues will remain about $50 billion above previous ‘pre-pandemic’ figures.

“Bonus” Humans

During the health crisis, many tech companies largely benefited from lockdowns and hired in full force. Last year was a year of corrections, with social plans across Silicon Valley. On Wednesday, IT group Salesforce announced it would lay off about 10% of its employees, or nearly 8,000 jobs. In the evening, the e-commerce giant Amazon, which announced the loss of “just over 18,000” jobs, including in Europe.

For Steve Koenig, this reality should not, however, mask the real problem, the widespread lack of skilled labor. “Twenty years ago, technology was a differential for a company. Today, the bonus is people”, summarizes Steve Koenig.

“Employees at former tech giants easily find work elsewhere because other companies need their cloud or AI skills,” said Avi Greengart, an analyst at Techsponential. For start-ups, “it may be easier to find talent, but it has become much more difficult to raise funds”, because of high interest rates, however, it shades.

The semiconductor supply chain also remains a concern. “Shipping costs are coming down and there are fewer delays at ports around the world,” says Steve Koenig, “but you only have to look at what’s happening in China to understand how bad the situation remains. uncertain”.

This article was automatically published. Sources: ats/awp/afp

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