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When You Can’t Beat ’em …

Sure, an easy headline. And in this case, it is not completely appropriate, since Apple and Beats were never really competitors in hardware.

In the music download business, iTunes’ size dwarfs Beats. But, of course, the music business is the key here, not the hardware. The real question is can Beats, with Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, add street-smart swagger to Apple, or, as a headline asked last week, “Can Dr. Dre, Jimmy Iovine Bring Cool Back to Apple?”

Now all of this is a perception game for stock market pundits and armchair investors to ponder, but since the demise of Steve Jobs, many Apple fans have complained that the company has lost its vision under Tim Cook and become “just another corporation.”

This out-of-character acquisition by Apple of Beats reminds me of the comment by the great Katherine Hepburn on the chemistry of the iconic movie dance team of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers: “He gives her class, and she gives him sex.”

We will soon see if Apple will allow Beats to continue to do its own thing, or urge it to follow its lead from Cupertino.

Lack of Innovation?

In Best Buy’s recent analysts call, chief financial officer Sharon McCollam said, “We have to address this consumer electronics softness, which we believe is being greatly driven by a lack of innovation.”

More than a couple of retailers I spoke with grumbled about that comment. Yet, at the same time, both Best Buy and hhgregg expect Ultra HD TV to make a major splash this holiday season, with more consumer awareness and promotions hitting retail.

Distributors TWICE spoke with for our Mid-Year Special Report were more specific on a second half filled with sales from new and innovative products.

They agreed that Ultra HD TV will make its mark at the right price points. But the distributors also said, in effect, that demand for tablets and smartphones are still high, and wearables – in health and fitness and smart watches – will catch consumers’ holiday gift-giving fancy. Home automation, long on the scene as an expensive, wired configuration, is going almost mass market with less pricey, wireless systems, which provide more features and can be controlled by mobile devices.

There’s always innovation in this business, and plenty of surprises too, and that should continue in the second half.

TWICE VIP Award Voting Has Begun!

The nominations have been cast, and the second annual TWICE VIP Award voting has begun. If you are a retailer or distributor, go to to vote on the best products in accessories, cameras, car electronics, home audio, major appliances, smartphones and tablets, video and TV, and, for the first time, home automation and wearables.

Votes should be based on product features, design and value to consumers. Voting continues until June 30, and the TWICE VIP winners will be profiled in our Aug. 18 issue. So go to and vote today!