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Huffington, Hastings Highlight CEA Leaders In Technology Dinner

1/17/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

LAS VEGAS — Arianna Huffington and Netflix CEO Reed
Hastings spoke, the Federal Communications Commissioners
received awards, and the Consumer Electronics
Association (CEA) announced that International CES attendance
through Day 2 is higher than that of the 2010
show’s audited attendance.

Those were just some of the highlights of the annual
International CES Leaders in Technology Dinner (LIT),
held at the Wynn Hotel earlier this month.

CEA president/CEO Gary Shapiro began the festivities
by announcing that attendance at this week’s
show for the first two days was 132,191, higher than
the 2010 show’s first two days of 112,515 and the
final 2010 International CES audited attendances of
126,000. By the end of the show, CEA estimated attendance
of 140,000.

“That’s a positive sign for our economy,” he told an
audience of industry and government luminaries.

But beyond mere headcounts, the 2011 International
CES also exudes “a mood of optimism” and introduced
a “tremendous amount of innovation,” he said.

Shapiro used the latter point to segue into another pitch
for his well-publicized book “The Comeback,” which promotes
innovation as a key engine of economic growth.

He noted that the book is “CEA’s book, not my book.
I won’t see a dime from it, but I did write it.”

Next Shapiro presented the trade group’s Digital
Patriot Awards to four of the Federal Communication
Commission’s five members (Commissioner Michael
Copps took ill) to acknowledge their National Broadband
Plan for freeing up spectrum and meeting growing
broadband demand.

In accepting his award, Chairman Julius Genachowski
quipped that CES’s attendance figures officially
made the show “the largest book launch in history.”

CEA then served up a “fireside chat” between author/
journalist Arianna Huffington and Netflix CEO
Reed Hastings.

Huffington took the stage to share her take on technology’s
three most significant trends: social media as
the new entertainment; using technology to help others,
like the texting-based charity drive to aid Haiti’s
earthquake victims; and the need to occasionally disconnect
from ubiquitous connectivity.

“We need to unplug and recharge,” she said. “We
need a GPS for the soul.”

In her one-on-one interview with Hastings, the Netflix
founder revealed that the DVD-distribution company
represented “a chance at redemption” after his
previous startup, Pure Software, was acquired by its
largest competitor, which he equated with failure.

“The humiliation of losing is sobering,” he said. “You
can learn a lot from pain.”

Hastings said he prizes creativity over operational
discipline and therefore has no vacation or expense
policies at Netflix, only “innovation” policies. Employees
are encouraged to only work when they want because
“structure stifles creativity,” and the company’s
novel work rules attract creative people and encourage
inventiveness.

The former Peace Corps volunteer added that he
continues to work because running Netflix is “pure
fun,” while the wealth it generates for him can be channeled
into charter schools and education technology,
the two pet projects he is most passionate about.

“My dream for society is that all kids get a great education,”
he said.

In the dinner’s program there was a reminder that the
2012 International CES will be held a week later than this
year — Jan. 10-13 — which is a Tuesday through Friday
schedule vs. the more typical Thursday to Sunday format.

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