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Internet-savvy Britons have gadget addiction

29 октября 2007

Britons are the technology addicts of Europe, according to a slew of figures that chart the voracious national appetite for gadgets and the Internet.

Internet-savvy Britons have gadget addictionThe UK is expected to spend more than €15.5bn (£11bn) on consumer electronic equipment, such as digital televisions and MP3 players, in 2007 – the largest amount among western European nations – according to the European Information Technology Observatory. Germany is second with an estimated spend of €13.3bn.

The most popular items are digital music players, such as Apple’s iPod. Britons are expected to spend about €1.3bn on 11m MP3 players this year, dwarfing the 7m expected to be sold in Germany and the 6.3m likely to be purchased in France.

Britons are also Europe’s biggest users of social networking internet sites. About 77 per cent of UK internet users visit social networking sites such as Bebo, Facebook and MySpace, spending an average of 5.8 hours on them each month, according to figures this month from ComScore, the internet research company.

This compares with an average of 56.4 per cent of internet users across Europe spending an average of three hours each. In places such as France, Germany and Italy less than half of internet users use these sites.

Britons are also expected to spend more on shopping online this Christmas than their peers in France and Germany. Forrester Research predicts that about €19.5bn will be spent online in the UK between October 1 and Christmas Day, compared with €11.5bn in Germany and €6.5bn in France.

This year’s Christmas wish-lists are expected to be dominated by hi-technology toys such as Doctor Who dolls, Transformers, Tamagotchis and Halo 3, according to predictions this month by the Toy Retailers Association.

Paul Jackson, analyst at Forrester Research, described the UK appetite for technology as “the perfect storm”.

“Other markets may lead in particular categories. Italy, for example, leads in spending on pay TV, and DVD recorders were a big hit in Germany. But the UK has a combination of high volumes in all those things,” he said.

“As a nation we more resemble the US in our technology buying behaviour. There is a readiness for a certain discretionary spend – people will walk into an Apple store or Dixons prepared to drop around £200 on an instant purchase.”

The German market was “much more considered, even for purchases of €200 to €300. PC magazines have reviews that are eight to 12 pages long with data on drop tests and boot time”, he said.

A study last week found that the UK has built a mountain of 400m gadgets, about 16 per household. This includes 60m TVs, 40m DVD players, 70m mobile phones, 22m games consoles and 24m computers.

Consumer electronics companies such as Sony and Nintendo see the UK as a bridgehead into the rest of Europe.

“The UK is the gateway, and the most important market in Europe. If it succeeds here, it trickles elsewhere,” said David Yarnton, managing director of Nintendo UK.

The UK is Nintendo’s third largest market after the US and Japan, and Mr Yarnton said certain games, such as Nintendo’s pet-owning game Nintendogs, sold higher numbers per head of population in the UK than anywhere else in the world.

Similarly, a number of internet companies, such as Google and MySpace, are building huge offices in the UK, in a very visible acknowledgement of the importance of the market.

Rod Banner, the founder and chief executive of Banner PR, a public relations company, has been a technology addict since he first started playing Pong on his rudimentary Sinclair ZX81 home computer in the early 1980s.

“It started as an addiction that has never been satiated. All new gadgets seem to promise spiritual salvation while they are still shiny and wrapped up, but as you use them you see their shortcoming and want to go on to the next thing,” he says.

Mr Banner has had an iPhone for two months, although the device does not go on sale in the UK until November. He had a friend send him one from the US.

At 52, he is eligible to take a Saga holiday – but points out he is the same age as Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple. In fact he is typical of a new UK “older generation” which has grown up with technology and now has plenty of spending power to indulge its passion.

Mr Banner says he has dozens of gadgets at home, although he sells some of the ones he no longer uses on Ebay. “It’s always a wrench, though,” he adds.

“The British are quirky and eccentric but innovative. The US is good at marketing and China is good at manufacturing but a lot of the ideas still come from here. That may be why we push technology to do more things here and why we have technology enthusiasts like myself in this country.”

Источник: Financial Times

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