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Converging Fields of Interest

Last year, I asserted that convergence in our industry had become a collision. Reflecting on the experiences of this years Consumer Electronics Show (CES), what comes to mind is the Academy Award-winning motion picture, Crash, which illustrated the angst and tension created by the collision of very different people of diverse backgrounds in post-9/11 Los Angeles.

In many ways CES has become the largest stage to showcase the depth of todays consumer electronics industry. Those of us who have been attending the trade show for more than 15 years found it more difficult to wrap our arms around it all.

ITs Influence
It is clear that the absorption of the Comdex vendors into CES has changed the event. Also evident, however, is the new dialogue and melding of our industries, which brought benefits we didnt anticipate. Just as there was no shortage of crowds in Las Vegas, there was no shortage of opinions about the shows intended focus, either. While my vantage point is from the AV specialty and custom installation camps, it was clear that CES is no longer the home of any one particular aspect of our industry.

During his keynote speech at the IPRO (Independent Professional Representative Organization) conference in Washington DC, last November, CEA president/CEO Gary Shapiro said that the CE industry is driving our economy. CES proved that we are a country and world that increasingly desires more electronics, and many suppliers are trying to satisfy that appetite. From car audio, cell phones, computers, flat-panel televisions, control systems, audio equipment, digital media players of all shapes and sizes to you-name-it, the challenge of the show has become how to adequately and efficiently representing each segment.

More than one person expressed that they felt CES had become Comdex v. 2.0. While there were an incredible number of computer-related products, the boundaries between computer hardware and software, control systems, home theater, and gaming are blurring. Aside from the huge Microsoft Vista extravaganza in the Central Hall, there were also large displays of other new, fully launched computer-related implementations in the tent areas. While these areas buzzed with constant activity, some in the CE industrys South Hall entertained frequent questions about CES relevance and productivity.

Dont Walk Away Just Yet
With many of us working hard to advance the growth of electronics and electronic entertainment, it appears that we have already done just thatbeyond our own ability to see all of it anymore. It behooves us to pay attention to everything going on around this electronic world of ours. While many attendees found it logistically challenging to get around town and see everything, to date this is the best way to learn about what a wide variety of industry professionals and manufacturers are doing. Losing sight of that could get us blindsided. Just imagine if all of the efforts for creating computer-based control and entertainment systems clicked into gear and no one from the RESC (Residential Electronic Systems Contractor) camp was there to see it coming?

There is no doubt that our industry will be best served by a realignment of priorities. Many manufacturer representatives reported that fewer custom electronic installation companies attended this event than in past years, while many manufacturers from this camp spread themselves around town in off-site venues. To a certain extent, this can be perceived as fence sittingneither going in or staying out of the show. Nonetheless, it was evident to me that manufacturer reps need to remain plugged into the developments on display at CES. RESC companies should not only encourage this, but should also schedule their own download sessions with their favorite representatives to obtain the information pertinent to their businesses.

The world of electronics will continue to grow and drive our economy. While reminding ourselves that we have worked hard to get to this pervasive level, lets be careful not to declare as irrelevant that which could make us less relevant.

Andrew Ard is a former CEDIA Board of Directors member and current chairman of IPRO (Independent Professional Representative Organization) in Dallas, Texas.