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Nobody Asked Me, But …

For the consumer electronics industry, and for those of us who cover it, this time of year through January’s International CES is usually the busiest, most nerve-wracking time of year. This year, with $3-plus a gallon gas, the fall of the housing market, the mortgage crisis, stock market gyrations, not to mention the war in Iraq, consumer confidence has taken a beating. There have been more than a few out-of-the-ordinary happenings in and around this business, which is why I’m borrowing the popular format of the legendary New York sportswriter Jimmy Cannon, “Nobody Asked Me, But …” to comment on a few things on my mind.

Nobody Asked Me, But …

I think it was the journalist who came out in Sony’s Sir Howard Stringer when he spoke candidly about current condition of the Blu-ray/HD DVD format battle.

When NBC Universal’s Beth Comstock said at last week’s CES media party how pleased it was to be the show’s first-ever “Official Broadcast Partner” and how large a presence it would have, I thought about RCA, NBC’s former parent. I remember RCA Corp. as being an intermittent, sometimes reluctant, CES exhibitor back in the 1980s.

I can’t believe disinformation campaigns, something out of war and black-ops, have come to retailing. Rumor has it that major chains have began printing phony Black Friday circulars so the Web sites that track them, and their readers, won’t really know what might be going on.

As a consumer I don’t want to see Christmas decorations at retail, or commercials using the holidays or Christmas music until at least Thanksgiving weekend, if not Dec. 1. I don’t care how bad the back-to-school season or summer sales were; it smells of desperation.

Kudos go to CEA for its decision to make International CES a “green” event. Based on the continuing concerns about global warming, and the build-up to the analog cutoff in February 2009 with hundreds of thousands of CRTs probably winding up as waste, the industry must show leadership on this because it will be under an environmental microscope from now on.

At the start of this year when Sirius and XM announced plans to merge, just about no one gave it a chance for approval. As of mid-November, most informed observers believe that the deal has a better than ever chance of being approved. If that happens, Sirius’ Mel Karmazin will have engineered the biggest upset since the Miracle Mets of 1969.

Speaking of baseball, we all knew where he ended up, but to see in black and white in a Samsung Four Seasons of Hope press release “Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre” made more than one Yankee fan and New Yorker do a double take at last Wednesday’s event at the Time Warner Center. Good luck, Joe.

Everyone in the consumer electronics industry always talks about better margins for the industry’s products, but no ever does anything about it. 

Have a happy, healthy Thanksgiving.