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A Decade’s Changes

In 10 days not only does 2009 end but the entire first decade of this new century goes in the books … probably an e-book, which is one of the points of this column.
During this time of year, the consumer media will do their retrospectives on the year’s and the decade’s news – from world events to the lurid celebrity scene.
What we do is our annual look at the year in retail, and as everyone knows, 2009 was not a pretty picture.
While the last year of this decade leaves the industry with a bitter taste, one should take the long view of the changes, many of them positive, that occurred during the past 10 years.
For instance, CEA projected in January 2009 that factory sales for this year would be $171 billion – just about double what it estimated for calendar year 2000. At International CES in January we’ll see CEA’s sales projections for 2010.
So why isn’t everyone smiling? Well, the value the U.S. dollar now vs. 2000 is far different, and one thing hasn’t changed in CE: Margins are thinner than ever.
But the industry during the 2000s was more innovative than ever before. And as written here and plenty of other places before, this 10-year span will be remembered as “the Digital Decade.” CE migrated from analog to digital, and its transformation created new categories across the board.
Video has always been the industry’s key category, and TV became HD in this decade, also moving from tubes to LCD and plasma flat screens.
Apple in effect reinvented MP3 players with iPod, and digitized music from online services became the rage, disrupting the music industry’s reliance on selling CDs and becoming a major CE brand in the process.
Of course, MP3 players of all types turned PCs – and, later in the decade, cellphones – into audio systems. That changed the traditional home, portable and car audio markets forever.
At retail the big got bigger or they closed up, like the recently shuttered Circuit City and Tweeter, but there were other memorable retail players that disappeared in the decade.
The dot-com bubble that began in the late 1990s threatened traditional brick-and-mortar retailers as the decade dawned. But by this year those traditional retailers -and their suppliers -are all selling to consumers online and competing with each other and the kingpin of Internet retailing,
On the supplier side, by the end of the decade two companies with leading market shares in HDTV are Vizio, a company that was not in business in 2000, and Samsung, which was an also-ran in analog but reinvented its brand and technology to take advantage of the digital age.
Many leading suppliers from CE’s analog age that did not effectively invest in digital technology either saw their market share erode or disappeared from the scene.
Of course, the revolution that is the Internet and all the devices that attach to it – either wirelessly or via broadband – has changed the way we entertain and educate ourselves, and communicate with each other. All of these social-networking trends will only intensify in the coming decade.
During the 2010 International CES in January we will hear about 3D HDTVs coming to homes in your neighborhood, IPTV getting a major rollout and more about mobile TV, among many other surprises.
While the past year and a half has been rough economically on everyone, one constant is that the CE industry will continue to present innovative new products, not just in 2010 but in the decade to come.
On that note, merry Christmas and happy new year to one and all. We will see you at CES in Las Vegas Jan. 7-10 with our next issue and the TWICE CES Daily, the official daily of the show. In the meantime, and during the show, you’ll still get breaking news at and via our regular e-newsletters and e-blasts.