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Will we really buy all these gadgets?

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Scott Jagow: Get ready for a week of media hype about gadgets. The Consumer Electronics Show begins today in Las Vegas. Already this morning, Polaroid unveiled a new printer that weighs 8 ounces. You can carry it around with you and print pictures from your cell phone or digital camera. And the best part: there’s no ink. It uses thermal printing technology. Well, that’s pretty cool, I might have to get one of those . . .

Wait a minute, wait a minute. I’m getting carried away here. Isn’t the economy slowing down? The money getting tighter, fewer jobs? Do these Consumer Electronics people really expect us to spend money on gadgets this year? Ashley Milne-Tyte has more.

Ashley Milne-Tyte: The Consumer Electronics Association projects consumer tech spending will grow by 6 percent this year. That’s about half the pace of last year’s growth.

But Michael Gartenberg of Jupiter Research says even if hard times hit, the consumer electronics sector won’t necessarily suffer:

Michael Gartenberg: There are times when you have economic concerns for consumers that they do decide to invest in things like home entertainment as a way of being able to watch movies at home, instead of having to go out and get a sitter and go for a meal, et cetera.

And people will feather their nests with equipment that’s more affordable than it was last year. Things like high-definition, flat-panel TVs.

Gartenberg says the main concern for gadget- makers at this year’s show is how to differentiate themselves from one another in a market that’s become commoditized. He says manufacturers need to excite consumers enough that they’ll buy their product fresh — and not wait till it appears at their local outlet store.

I’m Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

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