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European Portable Electronics Market Growth

Netbook PCs, pocket video camcorders, digital SLR cameras, smartphones, mobile Internet devices and handheld games consoles are fueling growth in the European portable electronics market, according to the latest study by Futuresource Consulting.

The market grew 18 percent in 2008 to reach 155 million units and is forecast to grow a further 7 percent in 2009 to reach close to 170 million units.

The market is growing by an expanding number of users, including younger and older consumers, more females, and less affluent households. Meanwhile, consumers are also replacing their devices more quickly.

As an example, average camera replacement has reduced from 6-8 years to 3-5 years, while personal AV replacement has fallen from 5-7 years to 2-4years.

Another important driver of portable electronics is gifting -- albeit in some European markets more than others -- where it can represent up to 60 percent or 70 percent of annual sales in product categories in certain countries.

Personal electronics gadgets have become a staple and high price ticket present for partners and for older children. Where mothers and spouses need to buy presents during birthday and religious holidays, personal electronics have played an increasingly important role to the extent that they have almost become impulse buys.

The Pocket Video Camcorder (PVC) market grew to 1.6 million units in 2008. This segment has revived the broader camcorder market which had stagnated over recent years, by introducing the younger generation to the camcorder industry, plus all those people who are attracted by the low prices.

The segment has introduced a raft of new video brands to what has been a relatively stable competitive environment -- including the likes of Toshiba, PureDigital (Cisco), Kodak, Creative and Aiptek.

PVCs are exploiting a window of opportunity while mobile phones still need to catch up in terms offering improved video capture, 3 and 3.5G connectivity direct to websites such as YouTube and Flickr, improved battery life and embedded/bundled storage capacities exceeding 1GB.

As mobile phones begin to catch up, sales of PVC are forecast to slow considerably beyond 2010 or 2011. Personally, I believe that PVCs that include an auxiliary microphone jack are likely to become the preferred handheld video device for prosumers and savvy business users. In a noisy environment, like a trade show, you really need an external mic.

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