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Shapiro: Innovation Will Revive CE Biz

Gary Shapiro, president/CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, wasn’t quite as colorful as Queen Elizabeth’s pronouncement of Annus Horribilis — referring to a horrible year for the Royal Family — but said he was happy to see 2009 enter the history books.

The comment was made during International CES after Shapiro exited a new 2010 Ford Taurus driven to center stage at the Hilton Center where he made his state of the industry comments prior to introducing opening day keynoter Ford CEO Alan Mulally (see p. 1).

Shapiro noted, “2009 was the most challenging year of our lives,” referring to the near collapse the economy suffered. “We’ve come back from the brink,” and he predicted things would get a lot better in the days ahead thanks to the innovation driving the CE business.

Shapiro noted the industry saw its first revenue drop in 20 years, with sales showing a 7 percent decline while total units grew 10 percent. “Even though we sold more devices, no one wants to see a repeat of 2009,” and he predicted slight revenue growth in 2010.

Shapiro — who takes his role as cheerleader for the industry very seriously — proceeded to detail the breaking technologies unveiled at the show, the unprecedented pace of announcements and the record number of new exhibitors in Las Vegas (300-plus out of 2,500), “all here at the greatest show on Earth.”

All wasn’t peaches and cream as he enumerated some of the challenges facing the industry, such as hodgepodge of energy-saving and recycling laws sprouting like unwanted rashes on a supermodel’s face.

Shapiro particularly lambasted New York City’s new recycling law (“It’s ridiculous”) and California’s technology-crushing energy rules. Congress came in for its share of abuse as Shapiro castigated the government for not passing a variety of free trade pacts. This was all part of his theme that free markets and innovation are the best ways for America to rebound and face the future.