By Stuart Fuller
This week sees the one of the world's biggest technology events taking place in Las Vegas when the annual Consumer Electronics Show opens its doors to over 170,000 industry members and technology press. Major brands use the event to showcase their products that will hit the shops in the next twelve months, hoping to follow in the previous successful product lines first revealed at the show in the past forty eight years such as VHS recorders, DVD players, Xbox and HDTV.
This year promises to reveal a range of new technologies including HDR (High dynamic range) TVs, next generation drones, and wearable technology including the new Fitbit plus cars that just get smarter and smarter. Whilst most of us will wait patiently for some of the must-have products to hit the High Street, others will return from Las Vegas with more maleficent intentions. Based on the history of smaller new tech products, we can expect to see some offered for sale on certain online marketplace websites long before the official release and at prices that seem too good to be true.
You only have to have searched online for the Apple Watch in the weeks before its launch to see sellers on online marketplaces such as TaoBao offering them for sale at prices way below the RRP. Even before actual designs had been revealed by Apple, sellers in the Far East were selling 'authentic' products. When Apple announced the range at their press conference back in March the images used were identical to those being used by some online marketplace sellers. Whether their end product looked the same is another issue.
Forrester Research, a research and advisory firm that works with business and technology leaders, recently reported that 35 percent of millennials will buy a fitness wearable in the next year. Whilst such products are not new, their importance in our daily lives is becoming more noticeable. Fitness advocates wear their Fitbits and Jawbones as prized trinkets, replacing precious metals on their wrists. The latest diet craze in the US according to the website International Business Times is wearable technology. This week Fitbit will announce the latest addition to their hugely successful product range in Las Vegas. The question then becomes how quickly cheap imitations start appearing online.
Even with the post-Christmas sales, their popular FitBit Surge can be bought on Amazon and most High Street stores for £139 ($200). But on Taobao sellers are offering the same product (in terms of description, product name and images at least) for as little as £79 ($105). Too good to be true? Almost certainly.
So before we all get too excited by the news of new technology that's going to revolutionise our life, take notice of what the manufacturers say. Major global brands won't release a product early for sale through small retailers in the Far East whose shop front is a site like TaoBao, at a discount price for instance. In most instances you will need to join the queue, often a physical one too, with everyone else who wants to be an early adopter, being prepared to pay a premium for the privilege too.