In 2009 the prices of these electronic goods jumped suddenly, as buyers emerged from the financial crisis and started ordering more equipment from manufacturers which had slashed capacity. But data collected in Taiwan suggest that prices are now falling sharply again (see chart). If the vendors at Computex had a common slogan, it would be “more for less”.
Among the products that generated the most heat were those that saved energy. These included alternating- and direct-current converters, and sensors that could moderate the power consumption of streetlamps, fridges and air conditioners. Such devices were initially marketed for their “green potential”, but what buyers liked was their ability to enhance productivity. Japanese firms, which have had to make do with less power since the earthquake, were particularly eager.
Chinese firms were curious about any product that lowered costs or made it easier to automate. When labour was cheap, Chinese firms used it inefficiently. Now they are learning how to get more from fewer hands. Li & Fung may be sounding the closing bell on one era of production, but the Taipei computer fair suggests that another is emerging.