CEA'S Industry Forum Delivers Economic Analysis, Retail Strategy

The current and future state of CE retail, breakthrough technology innovation and social media trends were among the hot technology topics discussed on day two of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) Industry Forum. Designed to connect, educate and inform consumer technology professionals, CEA's 2009 Industry Forum wraps up in Phoenix, Arizona with sessions presented by CEA's Small Business Council.

CEA president and CEO Gary Shapiro opened Tuesday's annual member meeting luncheon with a recap of CEA's achievements throughout 2009. He outlined recent CEA market research, industry standards, policy initiatives, the launch of the Innovation Movement, the upcoming Greener Gadgets and CEA Line Shows in New York City and highlights of the 2010 International CES this January.

He then welcomed to the stage Jen-Hsun Huang, co-founder, president and CEO of NVIDIA, who described his company's transformation over the past 15 years into the world leader in programmable graphics processing technologies and one of the semiconductor industry's largest fabless companies. Huang described the evolution of consumer technology over the past several decades and concluded that the Internet is today's killer application and that the next generation of innovation will bring the fidelity of the Web to consumers in increasingly convenient ways. Huang demonstrated NVIDIA's augmented reality technology and described the benefits it delivers to a variety of industries.

The conference session Charting the Churning Waters of CE Retail: Understanding How Changes in Channel Dynamics Affect the Industry featured CEA's Steve Koenig and TraQline's Eric Voyer outlining consumers' quest for value and the CE industry's need to determine what value means to their customers and then deliver it. Price deflation is rampant as the industry faces maturing markets. The presenters noted that discounters and online retailers are gaining market share. Koenig and Voyer discussed how the industry must safeguard innovation to help grow opportunities.

Another morning session, Economic Outlook: The Economy in CE Terms was moderated by CEA's Chief Economist Shawn DuBravac and included presentations from Dr. Tom Davis, corporate vice president, finance operations, Motorola and David Prince, economist, Intel Corp. The economists agreed that there is a global economic recovery happening. Prince said, "We anticipate three to five percent growth next year but it will take three years to get back to where we were." Davis said, "Due to the fiscal stimulus, we will see an impact in 2010."

DuBravac asked what the greatest risks are for next year. Davis answered, "The dollar going south is the thing I worry about it is a key issue for me." However, Prince said he didn't believe inflation would be a major concern in the short turn until unemployment has dropped. "GDP [growth] will have to be two to three percent." Both economists were upbeat about the future. Davis said, "It is time to plan for the upturn."

Next, CEA's Steve Koenig outlined the current state of 3-D TV in the session 3-D TV: The Next Big Thing for Displays? He discussed how the technology is demonstrating clear success at movie theatres and will gradually evolve into other facets of consumers' viewing habits. He noted how 3-D TV is similar to HDTV in that consumers are more likely to want it once they have truly experienced it. Koenig described how the consumer market is emerging for 3-D, particularly as Blu-ray continues to gain market share. In addition, Hollywood studies should have several titles ready by summer 2010. Generally, Koenig stated that the industry needs to have reasonable expectations for 3-D. It is gaining momentum but may not hit critical mass for several years.

Katie Fehrenbacher, editor, Earth2Tech moderated The 10 Things You Will be Doing in Five Years panel. The panel discussed the benefits of manufacturers establishing voluntary recycling program and how the industry is best suited in making products "greener". The panel agreed that environmental education will be vital to all manufacturers going forward as well as the need for standards on how to define what is "green" and the criteria to make products more sustainable.

Steve Smith, editor-in-chief, TWICE magazine led the panel The Future of Retail during an afternoon session. The panel discussed ideas on strengthening the retail industry and experience in the coming years. The important role that social media will play between the consumer and the sale was a hot topic. The changing environment of retail was also discussed. Panelist Jeanette Howe, executive director, Specialty Electronics Nationwide summed it by saying, "It's not just simple retail anymore, it is project management; it's not just selling one thing but rather selling a product, the installation and the experience."

CEA Chief Economist Shawn DuBravac gave a sneak peek of the top trends and technologies likely to prominently feature at the upcoming 2010 International CES. Interactive TV topped the list as a trend to watch with a variety of partnerships, widgets, menus and new ways to manage content across screens likely to generate buzz at the upcoming CES. 3D TV also will be a big trend, with the question of whether 3-D glasses or an alternative solution will emerge as the most viable option. E-books and Netbooks were also highlighted as top 2010 CES trends. DuBravac concluded by presenting several other technologies to watch, including iPod and iPhone software and applications, green technologies, digital health, augmented reality and further integration across the three screens (TV, PC and phone).

Jesse Thomas, CEO and founder of Jess3, moderated the session "Social Media and Business: Where's the Money?" with panelists Ben Grossman and Intel's Kelly Feller. The discussion focused on the best ways to measure social media, including free and paid monitoring services. Particular attention was paid to how social media can positively impact all parts of the sales cycle, especially the post-purchase evaluation cycle. Companies can make a name for themselves in the social media sphere by answering customer questions and building trust. Companies should weigh the cost it would take to produce a social media resource (ie. video) versus the opportunity it creates to impact consumer behavior. The panelists agreed that the next big trends include mobile/portable applications and Open I.D., the concept of having a single address book across a variety of networks that integrates the information and more easily allows you to connect with friends and communities.

Tuesday wrapped up with The CE Hall of Fame Dinner, honoring consumer electronics industry leaders who have made vital contributions to the products and services that consumers value and are vital to our nation and its economy. The CE Hall of Fame includes inventors, executives, engineers, retailers and journalists who are selected by an independent panel of industry judge. A full list of the 2009 Hall of Fame inductees can be found here .

Industry Forum concludes today with a host of sessions sponsored by CEA's Small Business Council. In today's first session Plain Talk on the Economy, Fox News Channel anchor Stuart Varney discussed the current global crisis and its unprecedented far-reaching scope. Varney outlined the existing financial situation and described what it means for individuals, their families and their businesses.

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