The Battle for Eyeballs Goes On…

We’re just “clearing the decks” ready for the annual dive into IFA and IBC. For those of our readers that haven’t attended them, IFA is the European equivalent of CES and is followed immediately by IBC in Amsterdam, which is equivalent to NAB in the US. The two events are completely different in feeling, with IFA a consumer show that teems with end users, while IBC is very much a professional event. They always provide a very interesting overview of TV from content creation to sets in a couple of weeks.

We’ll try to find time to post some articles as we go along as well as providing our full reports after the events, so keep an eye on the website.

This week, I was struck by an article from Bob O’Donnell from Tech Analysis Research and an occasional guest writer for Display Daily (Wearable Power Limits Pose Display Challenges).

In the article, Bob suggests that the technology “device” market has hit middle age, with negative or slowing growth in PCs, tablets and now smartphones. That, Bob suggests, will mean that device makers will have to get more like car makers, who are much better at pushing prices up over time to keep some revenue growth in the good years, while the industry understands that there are bad years as well, when volumes will go down. I thought the article was a good one, but it also got me thinking about why Bob had restricted himself to just these categories.

It seems to me that in terms of markets that have already hit “middle age”, TV should be in there, while automotive electronics is still in its relative youth as a segment – it looks as though there is scope for growth, although Norbert writes in MDM this week about some interesting JD Power user satisfaction research in car electronics. To some extent, this echoes the idea of the “battle for eyeballs” that Andy Grove referred to in his famous Comdex keynote in 1996 (although checking back to the text of his speech, it seems he used the phrase “the war for eyeballs”!). In that talk, Grove said that the PC industry faced a challenge from the TV business because users’ money would follow their eyeballs. That is to say, if consumers spend time doing something, they will usually be prepared to spend their money as well.

That’s not a bad context for looking at all of the developments in devices over the years. At one time, outside the office, there were TV, magazines and books. Then along came home computing with games and the internet, but these were tied to the power brick. Notebook PCs started the process of liberation from the power cord and tablets, smartphones and ebooks came along to finish that job and win the eyeballs out of the home and away from the TV and PC.

Now, whether we’re exercising, travelling in our cars or other transport, there are always screens battling for our eyeballs. The recent developments in automotive displays really just extend the battle to account for the time spent in cars. Arguably, this is the rationale for self-driving car technology as it would extend the time of the battle by, according to recent research, the average driving time for (US) adults of 46 minutes. Of course, for most of us that go on the road, the last thing that we want to see at the moment is a battle for the eyeballs of the other drivers!

Now I’ll get back to the battle for my eyeballs that all the PRs of the companies at IFA and IBC are engaged in!