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3Com’s Benhamou On CE’s Future

3Com chairman/CEO Eric Benhamou spoke of the importance of simplicity in consumer electronics products and the coming era of connected lifestyles at the Day 1 CES keynote address yesterday.

But Benhamou also had a word of advice for attendees: “In our society there is a gap of access [to technology] and a gap of skills,” he said. “It is hard to envision a harmonious society with such a large gap there.”

The answer, he said, is for technology and electronics makers to take an active role in providing education and access to people in lower-income brackets.

Benhamou said people can integrate technology, especially wireless devices, into their lives to make communication and time management easier, as “wireless networks are a key ingredient of the connected lifestyle.”

By using wireless modems and phones, as well as the Bluetooth system for other devices, 3Com is creating a new communications environment, he said. “We’re developing what you would call a personal area network — with special-purpose devices interacting and synchronizing with each other.”

Prior to Benhamou’s address, CEA president/CEO Gary Shapiro introduced the inaugural inductees to the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame, whose members include many of the most important inventors and entrepreneurs who helped create and build the consumer electronics industry.

Also announced were the two president’s selections to the hall: TWICE founding editor and current editor-at-large Bob Gerson and Casio founder Toshio Kashio. (See list of inductees on p. 120 of today’s print daily and online.)

Benhamou demonstrated several new and forthcoming 3Com technologies, including easy video conferencing for the home and Internet phones that can be personalized simply by beaming information from a handheld Palm device.

“That way, any phone can become your personal phone, with your dialing preferences and contact list,” he said. “And all calls to your phone at home will be forwarded to follow you.

“However, while it is tempting to believe that good connectivity means good relationships, that is not the case,” said Benhamou . “Our technology is meant to enhance the relationships we create in our lives.”