San Francisco - The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) will invite individuals -- consumers -- to become part of CEA, and to celebrate membership they will be able to attend the last day of the 2011 International CES in January.
That was the main surprise in the keynote of Gary Shapiro, president/CEO of CEA, during his keynote speech at Tuesday lunch during the organization's Industry Forum, being held at the Fairmont Hotel, here, in which he discussed the industry, the economy and a little politics.
Consumers will be invited to become members of CEA for the first time -- who will be called Consumer Technology Enthusiasts, or CTEs.
These new members will be able to participate in beta tests of new products, be part of an online community, and be given insider access to the industry, Shapiro said.
Jason Oxman, industry affairs senior VP with CEA, told TWICE the first 1000 CTEs will be allowed to officially visit International CES as attendees in a "one-time opportunity to celebrate membership" on the last day of the show, Sunday, Jan. 9.
The recruitment program will begin on Nov. 9 with information on membership fees and other details, which will be announced by CEA at its annual International CEA press event in New York on that day.
CEA opened the doors to CES once before at one of the last Summer CES events Chicago in the early 1990s. Tickets were sold to enter the convention the last day, but consumers did not become CEA members then and the one-time experiment was subsequently dropped.
The reason why CEA has opened its membership to consumers is that it is in the "self-interest" of the industry in that it could get consumers more involved in its CEAPAC efforts, find out more about its public policies, and "the interaction with consumers will be great."
Regarding CEAPAC.org efforts, contributors, many of them members of CEA, gave $140,000 to lobby Congress on the industry's behalf.
Shapiro expounded on issues he discussed in an exclusive
First off, he said that the industry has had a "pretty good year" given the "prolonged recession" the U.S. economy was suffering from.
He said that CEA expects manufacturer shipments in calendar year 2010 to reach $175 billion, up 3 percent from 2009, and they should have a 4 percent gain in calendar year 2011 to $182 billion.
Shapiro said that consumers consider CE products to be "necessities vs. luxuries."
The CEA president recounted ongoing battles over mandating FM chips to be put in cellphones and other national and state issues, such as the California recycling law.
But Shapiro expounded on CEA's Innovation Movement that pushed the notion that innovation is the best change the U.S. has for economic growth and requires free trade.
He hopes that in this election year, and in its aftermath, the "vilification of China" by both major parties will calm down since the country is a major trading partner with the U.S. And Shapiro called on Congress to approve the free-trade deal with Korea, which he said "President Obama wants done."
Shapiro said after the election, with Congress probably being split, the next two years "will be difficult" in Washington leading up to the 2012 presidential election, which is "not in the best interests of the country."
Speaking of elections, at least on the CEA level, Randy Fry of Fry's Electronics was elected chairman of CEA at the annual member meeting during the luncheon, making him the second retail chairman since the organization opened its doors to retailers in 2003.
He replaces Gary Yacoubian, now strategic development VP at Monster Cable Products, who was elected chairman when he was president of Maryland-based MyerEmco, which closed earlier this year.
Separately, Shapiro told the audience how proud he was that the 2009 International CES won America's Greenest Show award a few weeks ago. Right after the speech it was announced by CEA that Newsweek recognized several member companies as being the nation's greenest.
Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Intel (ranked 1, 2, 3 and 5, respectively) took four of the top five spots on the list, which ranked America's 500 largest corporations according to environmental impact, green policies and reputation. Ten of the top 13 companies were technology corporations. Newsweek also included Sony, Panasonic and Toshiba in its top 10 list of the greenest global companies.