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Prognostications For 2001

The person who wrote the Dec. 18, 2000 column in this space said, “The prognostication business is riddled with potholes.” While I still agree with my earlier assessment I’m willing to gamble, which is appropriate since many of us are in Vegas attending CES, and make some predictions about the ever-changing industry.

To be quite blunt, dear reader, the following “predictions” are more like educated guesses based on the many interviews our staff has had with the industry during the past month and a half, in preparation for our special coverage of International CES. My predictions are somewhat dependent upon the condition of the economy, which at this point is a question mark. Some economists foresee a downturn or a recession, while others expect a slow-growth economy. The years of 5 percent annual growth seem to be over. (I tend to agree with President

Harry Truman, who once said that if you threw a handful of economists up in the air, they would all fall down and point in different directions.)

Barring a complete economic collapse, the CE business has a couple of things going for it: Consumers can’t get enough of its wares, and dramatic product innovation is evident across the board, not in just one or two categories.

At any rate, in no particular order, here are my predictions for the coming year:

  • The DVD+RW, -RW, -RAM battle will confuse consumers and will constrain digital video recording growth in 2001.
  • Hard-drive audio recording, Internet audio devices and related product categories should be pleasant surprises, even if all the music on the Web won’t be as free as it once was.
  • More flash memory-based products, in all formats, will be introduced this year than ever before, but they will receive unexpected competition from DataPlay.
  • Home networking will not refer to only PCs. Much discussed over the past couple of years, the concept will get support and product introductions from mainstream CE companies.
  • DVD-Audio will be included in more conventional DVD-Video players than anyone expects now. And its rival, Super Audio CD, should get support from high-end audio suppliers and consumers.
  • Internet appliances, both wired and wireless, will become more mainstream and more popular than ever before.
  • Speaking of the mainstream and the Web, e-tailing in consumer electronics will be just another way certain types of CE products get sold to consumers in 2001.
  • And finally, industry insiders will still privately gripe and moan by the end of the year that HDTV and DTV sales and consumer acceptance are not where they should be and that there is still not enough programming. But in reality, major progress will have been made in this evolving rollout.

Well those are my predictions. Laugh, cry, shake your fist at them, but hold off with your cards, letters and e-mail until the end of the year when we will see what actually does happen in this crazy business. To those attending International CES, and to all the rest, have a happy and prosperous New Year.

Special Thanks To NPD Intelect

For those of you in Las Vegas this week, you will see NPD Intelect Market Share Reports on video and a variety of other categories on p. 21 in this issue and the TWICE Official CES Daily. The rankings are by brand, in units and dollars, for 1998, 1999 and for last year through October. Our thanks go to George Meier and Tom Edwards of NPD Intelect of Port Washington, N.Y., for sharing this important information with our readers. n