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End Of Summer Fireworks

Fireworks are usually a Fourth of July tradition but this year the days before and after Labor Day have featured plenty of “bombs bursting in air,” as the anthem goes.

Of course, there were planned new product introductions from IFA in Berlin last week packed with Windows 8 products, and from CEDIA Expo, which begins today in Indianapolis, Some of them were expected and others were surprises. (See CEDIA Expo coverage starting.)

And if you wanted to talk fall merchandising plans, how MAP and UPP strategies are faring, and other retail concerns, there was plenty of it at the Brand- Source and Nationwide Marketing Group conventions in August.

But three events: Apple’s victory over Samsung on patent infringement on its tablets and smartphones; the ongoing Best Buy saga; and, especially for major appliances, the fate of Sears, will change the landscape of the industry not just for the balance of the year but for the foreseeable future.

First, take Apple’s patent victory over Samsung. I’ve never been a fan of having the courts decide who are market share winners and losers. If you look at the patents and “trade dress” the jury decided Samsung violated, you would think an out-of-court settlement could have been made. (And forgive me if I am underwhelmed by the nature of these discoveries.)

Analysts quoted by senior editor Joseph Palenchar in his story about the case’s ramifications indicate the decision can temporarily hurt Samsung and Android, but not over the long term. And it may provide Windows OS with a needed opening.

I think, more importantly, maybe Apple’s image takes a hit with consumers, looking more like Darth Vader than Luke Skywalker. We’ll see.

Best Buy’s recent financial, the naming of a new CEO, and the chain’s approval to have founder Dick Schulze review its books in his attempt to take over the chain and have it go private has dominated talk in the industry

Those who I have talked with disagree with financial experts and think it is slightly more likely that Schulze may succeed. As I’ve written before, it may be a long shot, but I won’t count Dick Schulze out.

BrandSource CEO Bob Lawrence said last week during his keynote what a lot of people in the industry have been thinking: “The turmoil [at Best Buy] … is not good for us [in CE].” What many have said to me privately is that this is the most important holiday selling season for Best Buy in many years, possibly in its history.

Sears, even more than Best Buy, has to have an excellent fourth quarter this year, but as Lawrence said in the same keynote, it just may be too late.

That’s strong stuff for one competitor to say about another, but it illustrates the precarious position Sears is in right now, even though it is still a powerhouse in major appliances.

If Sears does eventually bow out, a large chunk of major appliance market share will be up for grabs, with Lowe’s and Home Depot looming as possible big winners.