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CEA’s Shapiro: New Era Dawns For Convergence

LAS VEGAS — On this, its 40th anniversary, International CES is marking the start of a new era of convergence, the convergence “of services, content and technology,” Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) president/CEO Gary Shapiro stressed in his opening morning keynote presentation held here at the Venetian Hotel Monday morning.

“We are at the starting line” of the era, and the industry’s partners “include content producers, programmers, software companies, service companies and broadband providers,” all being represented here in Las Vegas by exhibitors, speakers and guests, Shapiro said.

Digital technology has already changed the way we send and receive TV, “how we take pictures and share them,” how business is done in the home and office and they way we listen to and record audio, he stated. He pointed out that “technology and the products our industry creates,” lead to new business opportunities and are “driving the greatest economic expansion in our history.”

This convergence differs from the hardware-software one of the past in that it includes services and content “created by both traditional and non-traditional players, including consumers.” Shapiro said he can “only guess at which fledgling new service will be the story of 2007, but I am confident it will meld service with consumer-generated content and CE technology.”

For this new wave of convergence to go as far as it can, Shapiro said, we must insure it is not hampered by limitations imposed for fear it will “change the world and the businesses we knew a generation ago.” The big issue here, he said, is the need to protect intellectual property rights without hampering the consumers’ “right to use technology, to benefit from innovation and to access entertainment.”

While it strongly agrees commercial piracy is wrong, CEA also is a leader in the fight to protect those consumer rights. “That’s why we launched the Digital Freedom Campaign.” Its aim is the support of legislation that will “protect consumer’s fair use rights and reduce the absurdly high penalties of innovators,” while making sure “artists are properly compensated.”

CES, Shapiro said, “is a celebration of the triumph of technology. But we owe it to future generations to allow technology to grow, to help and to wander in ways we cannot predict and should not control. We owe it to our consumers today to protect their clear legal rights.”