CES -- Clear Economic Surge forecast for gadget sellers

It's the year of the tablet. It's also the year of portability, the year of intelligence, the year of miniaturization and the year of the app, as in application.

Given projections by Consumer Electronics Association analysts, 2011 may also be the first year when customers worldwide spend $1 trillion on electronics.

CEA is the nonprofit organization that hosts the annual International Consumer Electronics Show, which wraps up today in Las Vegas.

"The average household has 24 technology products," said Shawn Dubravac, CEA's chief economist and research director.

Based on what I saw, look for that number to nudge upward.

Look for sales of tablet computers and smart phones to lead the way. Dubravac said he wouldn't be surprised if there were more than 100 tablet computers in development now. It's too soon to know which ones will make it to store shelves and into consumers' hands. Everyone is chasing the iPad, which Apple unveiled about this time last year.

The CEA expects tablet sales to double in 2011 and near 30 million units sold. And Dubravac forecast that nearly 20 million e-readers will be sold worldwide.

CEA research shows that tablet computers are used primarily for browsing the Internet, followed by e-mail; watching video; reading books and periodicals; playing games; viewing work documents; listening to music; managing calendars and contacts; social networking; and making purchases.

When asked why they bought a tablet computer, 65 percent of people surveyed by the CEA said portability. Other reasons included using the device while traveling (55 percent), wanting to use apps (54 percent), liking the brand (48 percent) and a "just wanted one" (40 percent). Just wanted one? Really?

Steve Koenig, CEA's industry analysis director, said smart phones and portable computers (including tablet computers), digital cameras and liquid-crystal display televisions will be the top-selling consumer electronics worldwide.

Last year's hot CES items, 3-D televisions, accounted for just 3 percent of TV sales in 2010. The CEA expects Internet-enabled TVs to be hot sellers this year, with more than 50 percent of sets sold to be connected to the World Wide Web.

Apps will also play a larger role in the living room TV experience, as customers will use their big-screens much they way they use their smart phones. Also look for more devices with sensors to detect player movements, like the XBox Kinect, which sold 2.5 million units in its first 25 days on the market late last year.

I'll have more from CES next week.

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