Djokovic appeared to have shaken off the rust and showed plenty of the dominant play that helped him win three Grand Slam titles and amass a 70-6 record last season.
The 24-year-old Serb twice broke No. 3 Federer in the first set and ran off nine games in a row in a one-sided affair that lasted only 44 minutes.
"It is the perfect start to season. I played great," Djokovic said. "It's something that makes me very happy."
Djokovic said fans shouldn't read too much into his win over Federer, against whom he had a 4-1 record in 2011, including victories at the Australian Open and U.S. Open.
Djokovic attributed his win in Abu Dhabi to having a match under his belt -- a win over Gael Monfils on Thursday -- and a quick start that gave him momentum and prompted Federer to make several unforced errors.
"He has won over 15 matches at the end of 2011, so I'm sure he won't feel down after this loss here," Djokovic said. "His main goal here is to get a couple of matches under his belt, as it is for all of us."
Federer apologized to the crowd for disappointing them with his quick exit and promised to play better Saturday when he faces the loser of the Nadal-Ferrer match.
He said he felt "good overall" and "was moving well" but that he just was unable to chase down Djokovic's groundstrokes that repeatedly caught the corners.
"It's surprising when it goes quick and you are on the losing side. It's not so comfortable sometimes," Federer said.
He called Djokovic a good front runner.
"You try hard and try different things and it's not working. He was playing really well," Federer said. "Unfortunately, it was a short-lived match but we know he is a very good front runner. He took the lead in both sets quite early and that made it difficult because conditions were pretty quick and my game was not good enough today to make it more competitive."
The six-man tournament is a warm-up for the new ATP season that begins next week. The winner receives $250,000.