The world of consumer electronics has survived extraordinary crises in recent years, and it comes back stronger each time, declared Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, in his International CES keynote address.
His comments followed a short film that dropped Shapiro into classic movies via technology from YooStar. Taking the place — and even a bit of the personas — of Groucho Marx and John Wayne, among others, the would-be movie star offered the hope that innovation would be the key to survival for the CE industry. This theme carried on as Shapiro took the stage.
"Each day may seem bleaker than the day before. We are gripped by the worst economy since the Great Depression. We are worried about our economy, our jobs and our future. But we need to keep perspective," said Shapiro. "We must remember that we are a free market economy, and in a free market at times we will expand and at times we will contract. More, we are part of a global economy and the world looks to us for leadership, not only for economic resiliency but for innovation and all its possibilities."
Shapiro also preached toughness in tough times. Although the current outlook for 2009 revenue is essentially flat, with a 0.6 percent drop in revenue from 2008, he said much of this will be due to falling prices rather than a significant decline in unit sales numbers. (See p. 16.)
And as families replace costly vacations with "staycations," Shapiro said they will be comforted by their consumer electronics.
Likewise, Shapiro stressed that while the government has been quick to "bolster companies that took unseemly risks," the CE industry is a "bright light."
"We do not seek a government handout or bailout — instead we offer opportunity." Shapiro said the CE industry is about possibilities, with products that can enhance efficiency, while providing services that further offer users the opportunity to save money and save energy. "See the possibilities. Use the technology. Let us innovate, let us create, let us get the best and brightest from these products and services. Our economy will flourish. America will rise to the challenge," he said.
Shapiro cited innovation as the best medicine to end the current economic stagnation, reminding the audience how, in the 1930s, radio blossomed and helped lead the way out of the Great Depression.
Shapiro called on the industry leaders to work to insure that government doesn't interfere with innovation. To this end, the CEA has introduced a new Innovation Checklist: "Does it create jobs? Does it spur new technology? Does it encourage the best and brightest that comes from the United States? Does it reward risk taking? Does it devote experts? And will it deploy broadband?"
"I am not a Republican, neither am I am a Democrat," Shapiro said. "I believe in the power of entrepreneurship and innovation. Our job is to educate them about the benefits of allowing the marketplace to dictate what products we make."