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CES 2011: Huffington, Hastings Highlight CEA LIT Dinner

Las Vegas – Arianna
Huffington and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings spoke, the Federal Communications
Commissioners received awards and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)
announced that International CES attendance through Day 2 is higher than that
of the 2010 show’s audited attendance.

Those were just
some of the highlights of Friday night’s annual International CES Leaders in
Technology Dinner (LIT), held at the Wynn Hotel.

CEA president/CEO
Gary Shapiro began the festivities by announcing that attendance at this week’s
show for the first two days was 132,191, higher than the 2010 show’s first two
days of 112,515 and the final 2010 International CES audited attendances of

“That’s a positive
sign for our economy,” he told an audience of industry and government

But beyond mere
headcounts, the 2011 International CES also exudes “a mood of optimism” and introduced
a “tremendous amount of innovation,” he said.

Shapiro used the latter
point to segue into another pitch for his well-publicized book “The Comeback,”
which promotes innovation as a key engine of economic growth.

The CEA head next
presented the trade group’s Digital Patriot Awards to four of the Federal
Communication Commission’s five members (Commissioner Michael Copps took ill) to
acknowledge their National Broadband Plan for freeing up spectrum and meeting growing
broadband demand.

In accepting his
award, Chairman Julius Genachowski quipped that CES’s attendance figures
officially made the show “the largest book launch in history.”

After that CEA
served up a “fireside chat” between author/ journalist Arianna Huffington and Netflix
CEO Reed Hastings.

First Huffington took
the stage to share her take on technology’s three most significant trends:
social media as the new entertainment; using technology to help others, like
the texting-based charity drive to aid Haiti’s earthquake victims; and the need
to occasionally disconnect from ubiquitous connectivity.

“We need to unplug
and recharge,” she said. “We need a GPS for the soul.”

In her one-on-one
interview with Hastings, the Netflix founder revealed that the DVD distribution
company represented “a chance at redemption” after his previous startup, Pure Software,
was acquired by its largest competitor, which he equated with failure.

“The humiliation
of losing is sobering,” he said. “You can learn a lot from pain.”

Hastings said he
prizes creativity over operational discipline and therefore has no vacation or
expense policies at Netflix, only “innovation” policies. Employees are encouraged
to only work when they want because “structure stifles creativity,” and the
company’s novel work rules attract creative people and encourage inventiveness.

The former Peace
Corps volunteer added that he continues to work because running Netflix is “pure
fun,” while the wealth it generates for him can be channeled into charter
schools and education technology, the two pet projects he is most passionate

“My dream for
society is that all kids get a great education,” he said.

And in the
dinner’s program there was a reminder that the 2012 International CES will be
held a week later than this year – January 10 to 13 – which is Tuesday through
Friday schedule versus the more typical Thursday to Sunday format. That happens
over the years due to changes in the calendar.