Technology’s always been an expensive game to be in. Today’s high end graphics card costs $1,000. In a year’s time it’s so far behind the curve they’re putting them in wristwatches. Business grade tech equipment is equally costly, even if it does largely work on a three year deprecation cycle. Whatever your angle, there’s always been a significant investment to make. In the current economic environment with plenty of consumers and small businesses feeling the pinch, it’s interesting to take stock of what we are actually spending money on. There’s long been the feeling that a lot of computing and consumer electronics gear is somewhat recession proof. The theory goes that we’re not going out to restaurants or clubs anywhere near as much, but instead concentrating our limited budgets on bigger TVs, more internet connected devices and items that might hold a little more value than a bowl of pasta or glass of beer.
The latest surveyed figures, however tell a different story, at least from looking at the market research figures that research company GfK released for the second quarter of 2010 in mid-August. In tech terms, it’s a gloomy picture compared to twelve months ago. Admittedly, twelve months prior government stimulus money was theoretically flowing through the economy, but still, that idea that IT is somewhat recession proof didn’t stop a lot of categories going backwards. We’re spending less on notebooks (down 3%), photography (down 6.8%) and consumer electronics (TVs, audio, camcorders, GPS) generally (down 8.3%).
Where we are apparently spending up big is just as interesting. Smartphones sales are way up — 92% year on year. That tallies with what I’ve been told by Telstra, who indicated to me that some 25% of their mobile customers were using smartphones at the end of the financial year, and they expect that to hit 50% by year’s end. Having witnessed the frankly baffling crowds hustling to get hold of an iPhone 4 at the Sydney launch — where simply walking to the end of the Optus queue from front to back was a brisk four minute affair — that’s not too surprising.
The genuinely surprising category to me was in storage. Unit sales were up 62%, although that’s at least due in part to decreased actual prices for things like hard drives and external flash drives; that 62% volume increase only led to a 23% value increase. Whether that means we’re all still continuing to just create more and more data, or the lessons about backups are getting through (you do backup your precious files, don’t you?) is impossible to say.