I spent three days in Las Vegas this week and didn’t even have a chance to gamble.
Most of the time was spent in various meetings that were part of the Consumer Electronics Association’s annual fall industry forum, including a Communications Committee meeting and numerous breakout sessions on topics ranging from the "greening" of consumer electronics to engaging with our customers in the world of Web 2.0. (You can bet I had a lot to say in all of these sessions.)
I was also on hand for the various CEA announcements that took place during the week. The one that made the biggest news was the association’s forecast for 3.5 percent industry growth for the fourth quarter versus the prior year despite the current economic news and volatile stock market ups and downs. Although this represents a lower growth prediction than what the industry has experienced in recent years, it confirms my confidence that American consumers are poised to surprise many of the pundits with their strong interest in consumer electronics even during difficult times. Now, if we could just get our retailers to be a bit more bold!
A big event during the conference that I was very proud to be a part of since I was one of this year’s judges was the annual CE Hall of Fame Dinner to honor the latest class of winners. Of course, being a Sony guy, I was fortunate to sit at the table with inductee Ken Kutaragi, also known as "The Father of the Playstation." And, boy, was he thrilled and honored to receive the award. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him smile as much as I did that night.
But the stars that night didn’t stop with Ken. Another high-profile inductee included Warren Lieberfarb, formerly of Warner Home Video and another "Father" — this one noted for bringing consensus (including Sony a bit grudgingly at the time) around the DVD format. Then posthumously there was Dean Dunlavey (represented by his son Dean Jr.), who successfully argued the "Betamax Case" before the U.S. Supreme Court, granting consumers the right to record and "time-shift" television broadcasts for their personal use.
Other stars of the night included: Joe Clayton, longtime head of RCA and Sirius Satellite Radio; Eddy Hartenstein, who started the DIRECTV satellite service; Richard Sharp, who led the massive growth of Circuit City during his years at the helm; posthumously Jewel (the first female inductee) and David Abt, who founded the truly one-of-a-kind Abt Electronics store that is bigger and more unique than ever today in the Chicago area; Fritz Sennheiser of audio high-fidelity and headphone fame; the deceased Hans Fantel, who was perhaps the first consumer electronics columnist to write specifically for consumers in his popular New York Times column; and, finally, the team of Martin Cooper and Donald Linder, two more "Fathers," who while at Motorola developed the cellular phone.
Now that’s some Hall of Fame class!
Then it was back to the grindstone for a morning meeting with Sony colleagues and CEA staff at the Venetian Hotel in preparation for the keynote presentation that will take place in a huge ballroom there by Sony’s Chairman and CEO Sir Howard Stringer on opening day the Consumer Electronics Show on Jan. 8, 2009. The one thing I can tell you about it now is that it will be a "really big show," which I’ll be sure to report on here on the blog.
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