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In the Cloud and on Your Wrist: Peripheral Equipment

In the Cloud and on Your Wrist: Peripheral EquipmentWhat’s Out and What’s in:Peripheral Equipment

The computer peripherals market is defined as products that attach to personal computers to provide additional functionality. Connectivity is achieved via wireless, USB, HDMI, or other I/O connectors. This category includes input-to-PC, output-from-PC, input/output, or standalone devices that connect to a PC or Mac. The advent of wireless products and capabilities, including smartphones, tablets, UltraBooks, and body-worn electronics, has muddled the traditional definition of peripheral equipment.

Tablets and smartphones can have their own peripheral products, and may also act as peripherals to other products, as they are connected to transfer files. How you categorize these devices depends on if you consider docking to a PC, physically or wirelessly, part of the peripheral’s application. The many flavors of USB are important, as are RJ45, HDMI, AC/DC power, and audio mini jacks. Internal connections can be anything from FPC to WtB/header connectors to hard wiring. The next major interconnect, near-field communications (NFC), is already here and will loom large in the near future; this technology enables users to simply touch two NFC-enabled devices together to transfer files, pictures, contacts, games, etc. My Nokia 1020 has that capability and it is slick.

WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC, and the cloud are making an important and evolving impact. Many peripheral products contain wireless chips, but also incorporate I/O connectors, which may or may not be used in a wireless setting. In addition, for the first time ever, a decline in PC sales impacted peripherals in 2013. This drop may be partially offset by new products and applications tied to ultra-mobile products like smartphones, tablets, and UltraBook/convertible PCs.

There are large and small market segments tied to peripheral products. Below is a partial list:

Wearable Electronics

Smart watches are coming, and Bluetooth and NFC connectivity will help make them the next big thing in wearable telecommunications. See the attractively priced Kreyos Meteor Watch below:

Printers

Perhaps surprisingly, printers are most interesting among the market segments noted above. The past two decades saw an explosion of consumer demand, responding to increased volume and new ink jet and large-format technology products. But as the computer industry matured, smartphones and tablets emerged, as did connectivity to the big screen, Facebook, Instagram, and social platforms. Since documents and pictures can now be displayed on a remarkably clear LCD, the need to print has hit a plateau. Plus, you can’t print video, which has become ubiquitous. So, there has been a long slide here, starting with Eastman Kodak going off the cliff with film photography, to Xerox having to restructure, to HP potentially doing the same, as it derives a lot of its profit from the printer business.

Time will tell, and innovation often holds major surprises, so that could well happen to the printer business, possibly with 3D technology. It could even be that external factors, such as cloud computing, might generate renewed interest. But for now, the future of the printer business – and its connector content – is an open question.

Peek at CES 2014

Each year, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas highlights new electronics products. In 2013, we saw many new products in the smartphone, tablet, and wireless domain, plus ultra-high resolution TV. The January 2014 show is still under wraps, but here are a few areas that will be in the spotlight:

  • HDMI 2.0: Up to 18Gb/s speed carrying 2160P (4x1080P resolution) and HD audio
  • 3D Printing: Even Microsoft has jumped in, but the question for consumers is, “What do I do with it?”
  • Digital Health Summit: Personal medical devices and applications
  • FashionWare: Wearable electronics and other body-worn applications
  • Fitness Tech: Integrating electronics, sensors, and PC-attached applications in the fitness area
  • G.hn: Gigabit home-networking products and applications
  • Gaming Showcase: Sony and Microsoft introduce their new systems: PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
  • Eureka Park: Products and technologies from new startup companies
  • iLounge: The latest iPhone and iPad accessories

Computer peripherals have entered a new phase, one that requires constant innovation of applications in order to stay relevant. Because they are dependent on new equipment designs, which are currently in a downturn, the peripherals market is challenged. One response we expect to see is more standalone products coming from peripherals makers; this will help break their dependence on the OEM equipment market.

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John MacWilliams

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