Several years ago I read a book on diet and exercise that recommended placing a bag with eyeholes over ones head and standing in front of the mirror. The idea was that we all possess such powerful filters in our mind in how we view ourselves that the bag is the only way to see how we really look from an unbiased perspective.
Similarly, as an industry, we need to periodically stop and look in the mirror to recognize who we are and who we are not. Both perspectives are critical. The purchasing power of the big box world, which was in evidence at last months CES, is truly imposing. While our custom channel needs to remain aware of the broader CE world, we also must not lose focus on our own image.
The Relevance of CES
The result of our industry progressing from convergence to collision was clearly evident at this years 2008 CES. In the South Hall, which was created a few short years ago to accommodate much of the custom and AV specialty market, there is now a symposiumeven mayhemof some recognizable brands intermingled together with many previously unforeseen and unrecognizable manufacturers.
The cacophony of hotels and the ever-widening list of places to find many of these same manufacturers made it more critical to focus on the product lines you wanted to see while there. Because of the famous traffic gridlock, it was simply impossible to go to more than two or three locations on the same day. However, it is appropriate to mention that skipping the main show and convention halls is probably not a good idea; otherwise, you might miss something you didnt expect to see, but needed to.
Admittedly, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has tried to make sure the welcome mat is there for us, the residential electronic systems contractors (RESCs). However, although the electronics world that most of us remember is truly no longer the center of the universe for this event, we should not take our eyes off of what is there. The words audio and video are still part of the conversation at CES, but are now part of the larger IT-centric product spread. One of the trade journal inserts provided by Hewlett Packard even offered a guide (with multiple-format pros and cons) for AV connections from a computer, even though it reflected their spin and product agenda for making this an HDMI-only world.
We need to be just as bold and have a pull-no-punches attitude about our role in todays evolving industry. The world many of us came from is no longer there, and many of us are no longer the were-going-to-change-the-world people we once were; and, many of todays 20-somethings dont really know or care about our 20-year-old stories. They are on their own quest to change the world, and they will succeed. But before imposing a doom-and-gloom scenario, it should be noted that any image of the baby boomers riding quietly into the sunset is wrought with short-sightedness as well. Boomers may change careers, roles, and location, but they arent done.
Be a Player
Its time for everyone to get off the sidelines and get into the game. Over the course of the last year or so, many have witnessed conversations dedicated to whining about what CEDIA and other organizations should or shouldnt be doing. Well, now is the time for this to stop. Bottom line, we are who we are, warts and all; and, many of us need to remember we have worked really hard for years to get things this way. If someone thinks they have a better idea, then jump in and test the mettle of your ideas in an organized forum. Be willing to test them in the fire of questions and requests for clarification from others.
One thing is certain: for those who take the time to investigate and contribute to our industry, they will discover more for themselves in the process. As we challenge one another to look at ourselves without the filter of ego protecting us from things we dont want to see or hear about ourselves, we will find there are far more things we as an industry team have as common interests that need our focused, collective attention. Furthermore, we will find that what we can accomplish will be far greater together than any of us can accomplish individually.