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Gateway’s Waitt Keynotes CEA’s Dinner At CES

Ted Waitt, chairman/CEO of Gateway, had a high-profile audience for his talk on computers, consumer electronics and convergence, during the Consumer Electronics Association’s (CEA) annual Leaders In Technology.

The dinner, held during CES at the Bellagio Hotel, here, and hosted by CEA and sponsored by TWICE, drew an audience of top consumer electronics manufacturing and retailing executives, representatives from affiliated technology trade associations, and a major contingent of guests from Washington, topped by FCC Chairman Michael Powell.

Gary Shapiro, president/CEO of CEA and host for the evening, questioned Waitt in a Q&A format. Waitt said that while he is “a PC guy,” computers and consumer electronics are “converging … into one large, digital industry, a digital media, communications and entertainment business.”

While there is a “whole slew of convergence between computers and consumer electronics” such as audio/video, gaming, communications and the like, Waitt stressed, “for convergence to work we must find out, what does the consumer want? When you ask them, they don’t know, but when you show them what you can do with technology, they usually say, ‘Yeah, I like that.’ “

The Gateway chairman noted, “We have the ability to make technology that improves lives and make products that are easier to operate.”

Shapiro asked Waitt what the IT industry can teach the CE business, and vice versa. On the IT side Waitt said, “The IT business has learned that you can go directly to consumers, show our technology face to face … and customize solutions for consumers. In the CE business you still provide products with set features for everyone that sits on a shelf.”

What the IT business can learn from the CE industry, Waitt said, “PCs must have the same quality as CE products, they must provide the same ease of use and simplicity. When you consider how much [the computer industry] has to provide in terms of consumer training, troubleshooting and call centers, we have a lot to learn.”

Waitt also responded on a variety of other industry issues:

Profitless Prosperity of many PC and CE products: “Today consumers are so smart … due to research they do on the Internet. Loss leader marketing really can’t be done anymore … because some consumers only buy the lowest price. What we have to do show that all categories are not created equal and offer products with added features and value.”

Broadband: “There should be better applications for broadband in the future. This is a marketing and communications issue. The emergence of broadband and home networking are tied together, no question about it.”

How important is the quality of audio in today’s marketplace? “Consumers want to take music from the PC to different places and different devices. They want the flexibility to listen to their favorite music on their home stereo, in the car and in portable audio devices. Audio quality [and] flexibility of use is very important.”

Gateway’s support of recording rights: “We believe in fair use, but we don’t believe in stealing music. [Artists and recording companies] should be compensated.”