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CE Week Shows CE Ain’t What It Used To Be (And That’s Good)

NEW YORK — Attending one day of the most recent version of CE Week, held here during the week of June 22, provided further proof of a notion I have had since transitioning to editor at large of this esteemed publication: The term “consumer electronics” is far broader now than ever before.

CE Week had such exhibitors and participants as Buick, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, AAA, a wearables fashion show, health and fitness based CE products, and major recording companies. It also went as far afield as, a royalty distribution system that has begun with art first and will move to other content, and even a company like Adlens had a press event at the show for its adjustable focus eyewear, which isn’t even electronic and is sold by eye doctors. (It isn’t electronic yet, according to Dr. Graeme E. Mackenzie, regulatory and industry affairs director, but it will be soon and Adlens is looking for CE companies with which to partner.)

The show also included, according to a CE Week press release from the last day of the show, “rising ‘techfluencers’ from the getgeeked community,” whatever that means.

Many of these business models are far afield from the traditional readers of this publication. “Consumer electronics” used to mean hardware developed by manufacturers and sold either directly by them, or via distributors, buying groups or independent reps, to retailers so they could introduce and sell the products to consumers.

Now, if you’ve been involved in this business for a while like I have, you can go to a show like this, color between the lines and ignore the “techfluencers” and others that are not part of the traditional CE business model.

And you’d be making a mistake.

To really know what “consumer electronics” means to consumers today, you have to really look at the totality of the market. That’s why Leon Temiz, president/ CEO of Electronics Expo, told me he was at CE Week to take a look around and see all the new companies and technologies.

Don’t get me wrong: There was plenty of traditional CE products and companies to see.

While it is no longer jarring to see entertainment companies attending CE events, the Hi Res Music Super Session, hosted by Marc Finer of the Digital Entertainment Group, featured John Jackson of Sony Music Legacy Recordings; Maureen Droney of The Recording Academy; Jim Belcher, Universal Music Group; and Howie Singer, Warner Music Group. The group provided plenty of insights on an upscale format that can provide profits to them and CE audio makers.

Each one of the recording companies on the panel said they average about 1400 Hi Res albums in their respective catalogs, which get larger every day. The format may typically attract audiophiles or high-end audio users, but as one of the panelist noted, with consumer education in the form of promotions and demos like the recent Best Buy announcement on demos for Hi Res this fall, this is a format that can be for everyone.

Warner Music Group’s Singer pointed out, “We have sacrificed quality for convenience for years” via MP3 downloads and the like; with improved digital downloads, that can change.

You’ll also need top-notch portable audio units to play high-res tracks, which was why Astell & Kern was at CE Week. It showed its newest flagship portable high-res audio player, the AK380, along with its entire line.

Midyear has always been the time, ever since the departed Summer CES in Chicago, where some smaller, more traditional suppliers want and need the love and attention publicity provides.

For instance, Bruce Borenstein, president/CEO of Aftershockz, was at CE Week to highlight its Trekz Titanium headphones, among other products. Flygrip showed its line of one-handed smartphone holders. C&A Marketing attended showing its Polaroid-branded Cube HD action video camera, and CE industry veteran Paul Fredrickson demonstrated the Zeiss VR One virtual-reality glasses with Android and iOS apps available on Google Play and iTunes.

Yes, industry veterans were in attendance as well, to network with existing contacts, establish new ones and appear on a few panels. Panelists included Bob Scaglione, strategic development manager of Owner IQ; Tom Campbell, soonto- be member of the Consumer Electronics Association’s CE Hall of Fame, and spokesman and advisor of Video & Audio Center — which announced a new 4K TV service called “Platinum Concierge”; and Jeannette Howe, who is sharing her CE retail expertise with Revenew as business development VP.

All in a midyear meeting that was yet another example of how wide a net the term “consumer electronics” casts today.