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Good Riddance

The big story of 2008 could have been Blu-ray winning its format war against HD DVD.

Or it could have been the painfully slow decision of the Federal Communications Commission to allow Sirius Satellite Radio to merge with XM Satellite Radio.

But that was in a normal year. As we have too-painfully seen, 2008 was anything but.

Given the times, maybe the big story could be the moves of Mark Wattles, founder of Hollywood Video, owner of Ultimate Electronics and a Circuit City investor, getting help from former rival Blockbuster and Wall Street superstar Carl Icahn to take over Circuit City.

And after that didn’t work, how about Circuit City firing its top executive Phil Schoonover, going Chapter 11 in November and closing stores, with many expecting the chain to disappear from the scene in 2009?

And, of course, there is always Tweeter. Founder Sandy Bloomberg had a passion for the industry and a vision. He was a real entrepreneur. But Tweeter over-expanded by buying successful regional retailers. Schultze Asset Management came along in the summer of ’07. It cut storefronts, changed management and, as you have painfully read in our coverage and the passionate comments on by former employees and customers, made the Tweeter name practically an epithet to many in CE retailing.

Maybe the supplier changes could take the top spot? Panasonic dropped Matsushita as its name for branding purposes and then made a move to buy Sanyo. There was the JVC and Kenwood deal. Sharp’s investment in Pioneer began (at least in Europe), and Philips licensed its brand for video to Funai.

I haven’t forgotten the DTV transition set for Feb. 17, 2009. Who knew that it would happen in the middle of the deepest recession this country has seen in the post-World War II era? For some retailers and manufacturers the DTV transition might soften the blow of this recession on the industry. At least many hope so.

The story of the year is all of these instances, and many more I haven’t recounted. In the CE industry, one is used to change. But many of the traumatic changes of this year came from mismanagement, miscalculations and the degeneration of the general economy, which is practically criminal in nature. It has profoundly affected this industry and just about all others worldwide.

Yet the CE industry is nothing if not resilient. When we attend CES next month in Las Vegas we will see more new technologies, and more opportunities, than many other industries can wish for.

What this industry has is an ability to reinvent itself quarter after quarter, year after year, with a public that loves its wares … even in a recession.

So to all I wish a hearty “good riddance” to 2008 and wish all of you a happy holiday season and new year.

We will be back in print with our special Jan. 8 CES issue and the TWICE CES Daily for those of you at the show. Online we will be updating news of the industry all the time at