Technologies, Economy Top CEA Forum Agenda


San Francisco -

Five technologies

to watch and a discussion of the economy were two of the highlights of the opening day of the 2010 Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) Industry Forum, held at the Fairmont Hotel, here,  on Monday.

Shawn DuBravac, chief economist and research director for CEA, was joined by Jason Oxman, industry affairs senior VP for CEA, and Jon Healey, editorial writer of the Los Angeles Times, who discussed Five Technologies To Watch -- the subject of a publication CEA released Monday.

Video opened the discussion, with Healey saying that content owners "will play a significant role in what technology emerges" in the near future, as it did in the introduction of Blu-ray.

Healy said that Hulu, for instance, is "TV programming not for your TV, which on the face of it is crazy" yet makes sense if content providers want to go to as many screens and get "as many eyeballs" for their content as possible.

Hollywood would like portability for its content and to sell to "non-customers" in the current cable/satellite world, "but they don't want to hurt the ‘golden goose' of the cable [and satellite] business."

Oxman volunteered that cable's rollout of broadband in the 1990s enabled this to happen but that cable companies' "want to sell content" was a utility just selling access with their connections.

Internet TV will be "the story of CES in 2011," Oxman said, reporting that he just returned from a trip to Korea, where he visited with LG and Samsung -- "Connected TVs will be a big focus for 2011."

The issue for TV manufacturers will be that they will want "walled gardens" of content -- sites they can trust and will not crash the electronics of their hardware in the homes of millions of U.S. TV viewers, which, according to Healey, is understandable.

As for innovation in video in the next five years, and whether or not it will be accepted by Hollywood, Healey said, "They will have to say, ‘This model works for me.' A platform would have to be knighted, like YouTube was accepted."

Ease of use was discussed, with Oxman commenting that services like Roku, TiVo and Internet TV apps from manufacturers will all have to have the comfort level of the "look and feel of today's typical cable guide."

As for content that will be successful on Internet TVs, with Hollywood now competing with videos from YouTube and the like, Healey said, "A lot has been said about the long tail of niche content, but there will still be hits when you put a lot of marketing behind a major movie."

Apps were also discussed, with Apple being described as being under the "walled garden" approach with its iPhone, which will ensure performance,  while the Androidis making great strides with the PC model of not having any restrictions and being wide open.

Oxman said that in the near future the issue of having apps for "TVs, phones and car" will have to be synchronized, and "how do you do that?"

And discovering apps will also be a challenge for consumers down the road with 300,000 phone apps today in the Apple Store, he noted.

Oxman said that apps with open platforms should be successful down the road.

Brian Westbury, economic forecaster and Wall Street Journal contributor, discussed the current state of the economy, saying that many of us are suffering from "economic hypochondria," with more people emphasizing the negative than ever before.

He put it this way, "At 25 if you have too many tacos, you think you have heartburn and have another. Today, if you're 52 like me, you're liable to go to the trauma center thinking you've had the ‘big one.' "

Westbury said we should discount those who are worried about the "black swans" in the economy and society. "The theory was that real estate markets couldn't collapse. Well, that happened. Certain things change," he noted, adding that when things like this happen, you have to deal with them and set new plans.

He recounted why everyone in January "was worried about the Dubai situation. Do you remember why you were worried? All of a sudden everyone on CNBC, and economists stopped talking about it and it was forgotten."

Westbury noted that disasters like the Gulf oil spill, the Chilean mine disaster, while terrible, "help us learn things."

He recounted statistics about the current economy, showed historical trends from the early 1990s, the 1980s, the Great Depression and the panic of the early 1900s, saying that while it is not doing well now and Westbury does not approve of the Obama administration's increase in the national debt, "things are improving."

For instance, he noted that the stock market has begun to improve, that the best time to buy stock is when "unemployment is high," and that unemployment rates in the U.S. have begun to go down.

A major concern in the next year or two will not be deflation but inflation of maybe 2 to 4 percent of year, "which will  be good for businesses like yours, but not good for the economy in the long term," Westbury asserted.

He closed by saying that the stock market is currently "under-valued in a massive way" and that "we didn't just forget how to create wealth in the past couple of years." While there is much work to be done in the U.S., the economy "is not as bad as Greece and Zimbabwe" and that it has a "potential to boom like the 1980s and 1990s."


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