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Shapiro, Gornik Outline Goals For CE, CEA

LAS VEGAS — Consumer Electronic Association (CEA) president/ CEO Gary Shapiro and chairman Kathy Gornik, president of Thiel Audio Products, stressed the CEA’s role in helping the industry grow though the expansion of its information, training, standards and government relations programs and the broadening of its membership to encompass new groups of businesses in their opening morning keynotes welcoming attendees to the 2004 International Consumer Electronics Show.

The 2004 CES, the biggest ever, is opening ‘precisely at a phenomenal intersection of history and technology,’ Shapiro stated. ‘This is, he said, a global industry defining the future,’ and ‘changing how people work and how they play.’ The 2,300 exhibitors ‘displaying their visions at CES reflect the global advances in sound, vision and connectivity which did not even exist 10 year ago.’

With digital technology now defining our industry, Shapiro said, ‘One Digital World,’ was selected as this year’s show theme, ‘reflecting how digital is becoming pervasive, shrinking our distances and enhancing our lives.’

As for industry resolutions for the new year, Shapiro said, the first is ‘to simplify our products for consumers.’ Last year CEA took steps in that direction, creating a guide for instruction manuals and setting many product standards. ‘From our 30-city media campaign to our TKO college campus promotional tour, to our in-depth retailer training and certification program, we’ve tried to help consumers understand and buy our products.’

One of CEA’s best efforts, he said, has been with HDTV. ‘Our conferences, standards, public policy efforts and relentless promotion continue to pave the way for DTV’s record-setting sales. But we can do more. And we must do better.’

For this year, he stated, CEA will expand retail certification training to include audio, mobile electronics, home networking and digital TV and create a technology awareness program aimed at teenagers.

A second resolution ‘is to change the way that governments think about us and our products.’ The industry, Shapiro said, ‘faces the threat of a patchwork of laws regulating how our products can be made and how they can be recycled.’ CEA, he said, favors uniform national recycling laws that provide for the costs to be shared ‘among all affected groups,’ and are ‘flexible and based on sound science.’ There also are still unresolved issues related to consumer recording rights.

‘The CES is our showcase to the world,’ and is taking on a more international role. ‘Shortly,’ Shapiro said, ‘we will announce the details of our involvement in a major event in Asia with the CES moniker.’

Gornik stressed the advantages of CEA membership, particularly for smaller affiliated businesses. CEA has ‘a tremendous resource pool available,’ to members, ready to assist ‘with everything from running a booth at CES, to making your voice heard in government, to holding a small press conference.’ Gornik noted that her company, Thiel, has drawn upon those resources.

She also said CEA launched its Small Business Council last year to help foster the growth of smaller enterprise through the exchange of ideas and monitoring. CEA members can take advantage of the association’s market research and training programs, participate in conferences where members ‘learn about trends in their industry and others,’ and attend division meetings where matters of common interest are discussed.

CEA increased its membership by 10 percent last year, in part by broadening its scope. Industry ‘retailers are now eligible for regular membership and full membership benefits,’ Gornik said, and with the interest in HDTV high among broadcasters, CEA now has more broadcast networks as members than the National Association of Broadcasters.’

On a smaller scale, Gornik said, CEA attracts members through the formation of new subdivisions and special interest groups to help grow new industry segments. Formed last year, the ‘Distributed Audio Subdivision, focusing on multiroom audio,’ now has 75 members, and the two existing special interest groups are being joined by two more.