The convergence technology-led battle for consumer electronics sales looks set to intensify as vendors vie for a slice of the estimated $101 billion US consumers will spend on such devices this year.

Apple is reportedly preparing to begin 2004 with introduction of a new entry-level iPod at Macworld Expo later today. The company has its sights set on a slice of the consumer market, while still delivering the goods (Xserve, G5 PowerMac, PowerBook G4) to delight its professional markets.

Sales of consumer electronics products in the US will reach $101 billion in 2004 – five per cent more than in 2003, according to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), which measures manufacturer-to-dealer sales of consumer electronics products.

Of 2003's $96.3 billion sales, consumer PC sales accounted for $12.5 billion, with unit sales growth of 15 per cent. Mobile phone sales rose 20 per cent to 70.5 million units with a value of almost $9.2 billion, CEA said.

But several smaller categories grew faster, according to CEA. Factory-to-dealer shipments of MP3 players – such as Apple's iPod – reached 3.8 million units during 2003, more than double 2002's figure, and are expected to rise 34 per cent in 2004 to more than 5.1 million units, when the market will be worth $706 million.

Digital TV sales rose 56 per cent in unit terms and 44 per cent in dollar terms to reach $6.1 billion. Sales of standalone DVD players rose 25 per cent to $3 billion and will continue to grow strongly in 2004.

Digital camera sales rose 22 per cent in 2003 to 12.5 million units and $3.4 billion in value. One-third of US households now owns at least one digital camera, CEA said.