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CEA Summit Draws Top CEOs To Italy

Lake Maggiore, Italy – The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) held its 15th annual CEO Summit, for the first time in Europe with 180 executives in attendance – 43 of them first-timers – Oct. 1-3.

CEA’s Shawn DuBravacThe event, which is usually held in June, has been held overseas at least three times – twice in Bermuda and once in Mexico – but CEA moved its dates and venue to this scenic resort in northern Italy, more than hour’s drive from the country’s business capitol of Milan, where it co-located with the TechHome Mediterraneo Summit.

Aside from the multiple opportunities for top executives to network, the program included meetings of the CEA board of industry leaders, CEA technology advisors, and a trend preview of 2012 International CES, presented by Shawn DuBravac, chief economist/research director of CEA.

DuBravac noted that the lines between devices – what they do and how they do it – are being blurred more than ever before due to hardware changes but mostly by apps. For instance, while desktop computers sales are slumping, computing as an activity is broader than ever before, with other devices sharing more features and communicating more than ever.

He cited the fact that some cameras are now being designed “to look like a phone or a tablet and are Android based,” DuBravac said.

Tablets, to no one’s surprise, will continue to be a giant story at CES. DuBravac said that Intel, with a variety of partners, will introduce at the show two dozen lightweight Ultrabook laptops, whose functionality are like tablets.

There will be more smartphones with larger screens, and tablets with smaller ones, shown at CES than in the past. “They will provide a unique experience … but where will consumers gravitate?”

Users will drive innovation with apps that provide unique experiences. That has happened with smartphones, DuBravac said, where the hardware might be the same, but “if you pick up a friend’s phone, you might not be able to use it immediately.” The app trend will spread to TVs, he said, noting that while the lifecycle of TVs “continues to be 10 years,” at CES there will be “a lot of devices that will allow consumers to bring the net experience to a display that doesn’t have those capabilities built-in.”

DuBravac predicted growth in the TV category “will be slow for the next four years.” CES attendees will probably see more thin bezel sets, more 4K by 2K screens “with OLED being part of it,” and glassless 3DTVs. The format fight in 3DTV glasses will continue and glassless 3DTV will be part of the mix in 2012.

When asked from the audience about Apple TV and what it may bring in 2012, DuBravac did not provide specifics, but did note, “Consumers want to move content easily between the main screen at home and portable devices. They want a strong interaction between both.” For example, smartphones will become more vital as controllers in the home gaming experience, be they iPhone or Android.

Other Summit highlights included a one-on-one interview between CEA president/CEO Gary Shapiro and Dish Network president/CEO Joe Clayton; a panel on global retail trends with Mike Vitelli, president, Americas executive VP, enterprise of Best Buy, and Joe Hartsig, senior VP/GMM for technology and entertainment at Sam’s Club (a video of the panel will appear on soon); and remarks by U.S. counsel general Kyle Scott, based in Milan, who highlighted the importance of the Italian CE market to U.S. suppliers.

Scott, who spoke during the Summit’s opening reception Saturday night, said that while Italy is struggling with its economy like the rest of Europe, it is the fourth largest economy in Europe.

Scott said that while the Italian market has 10 million smartphone users, “only half of the country has high-speed Internet.” On the other hand, digital TV is rolling out across the country and that “80 to 85 percent of Italian consumers have DTV” and that number will be close to 100 percent by the end of 2011.

He also noted that Europe in general, even under the current financial difficulties, is a “key economic partner” with the U.S. and that in 2010 the U.S. exported three times the goods and services it does to China.

Scott added that while Europe is “struggling … for a blueprint to correct its economic problems,” the area is still “a key economic and military ally … which is hugely important to the U.S.”

He stressed that the U.S government is “optimistic about Europe and northern Italy” and that U.S. companies like the ones at the CEA CEO Summit should “develop partnerships with Italian companies.”