Written by PollackPRMktg on January 25, 2011.
Jim Barry, “The Digital Answer Man” is media spokesperson for the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). He has appeared on countless radio and television programs and webcasts educating people about consumer electronics technology and products. He is the former editor of Video magazine and a 30-year veteran of consumer, trade and custom magazine publishing. During that time he has been an award-winning editor, writer and reporter, the president and CEO of a multi-million dollar corporate division, and the publisher of several consumer and business magazines.
Q: Having attended the recent 2011 Consumer Electronic Show (CES) as spokesperson for its producer, the Consumer Electronic Association’s (CEA), can you comment on whether there is optimism in the air or any anticipated increased consumer confidence in the overall economy?
A: Yes, there was tremendous optimism in the air at the 2011 International CES – a positive aura that had been missing in recent years, making it for me one of the best shows in my 30-plus years attending.
The optimism was reflected in the attendance — over 140,000 including more than 30,000 international visitors — but even more telling, I think, it was in the energy and buzz – the positive vibe emanating from exhibitors and attendees alike.
CES is all about Innovation, and 2010’s sales were led by innovative new product categories, including tablet computers, e-books, and smartphones. These and other electronic products led the way to an estimated six percent sales increase last year, a tremendous turnaround from 2009’s six percent drop.
To be sure there are still significant issues with the overall economy, but if CES is any barometer the innovation on display may well represent the leading edge of an overall economic recovery.
Q: Can you point to any one innovation in the next generation of consumer technology innovations seen at CES, maybe in their infancy, that you think will impact both the economy and consumer lifestyles?
A: As always there were some 20,000 new products introduced at this year’s CES – new technologies that will soon impact everyone’s life were everywhere, so it’s difficult to choose one. Nevertheless, one nascent technology that’s been germinating at the last few shows and started to bloom this year is what I call “no-touch screens.” The success of the Microsoft Xbox Kinect’s motion, video and sound sensor is a precursor of more “gesture controllers” for TVs and other devices. Stay tuned.
Q: You spend much time talking to the media in order to educate on consumer electronic technologies. What are the top tech news or trends that consumers should look for in 2011?
A: This year should be the year of the touch-screen tablet computer. After the spectacular debut of the iPad last year, as many as 80 competitors will be on the market in 2011 for consumers to choose from.
But will they embrace tablets other than iPad? That’s the big question. Touch-screen tablets have been around for a decade or so and went nowhere as a consumer product pre iPad. Now there are many choices at a variety of prices for the space between smartphones and netbooks. Gentlemen start your tablets!
Q: Can you comment on what is imminent in the 3D-TV market? Is rapid consumer adoption an issue?
A: By some measures 3D has a spectacular debut year in 2010 with over a million sets sold, but the hype at last year’s CES and inflated projections from some quarters led to the perception that 3D hadn’t done very well. But if you look at the decade-long adoption curves of other major video advances — including color TV and HDTV — you’ll see that 3D is off to a pretty good start. Nevertheless it has challenges those other technologies didn’t including the glasses which currently are expensive and non-compatible among brands. At this year’s CES we saw two solutions: inexpensive “passive” glasses and even some “glasses-less” 3D. When the latter gets perfected, watch for 3D to take off.
Q: The CEA 2010 Sustainability Report highlighted the tremendous progress the consumer electronic industry has made in its green initiatives. Is there a star among these?
A: CES isn’t just the biggest trade show in North America; it’s the “greenest” having been voted that by Trade Show Executive Magazine in 2009. This award is a mirrors a consumer electronics industry that has embraced green technology and good environmental practices. Manufacturers, retailers and CEA alike are working to educate consumers (www.mygreenelectronics.org) and to make products more readily recyclable and dramatically more energy efficient across the board.
One terrific example is TV. The now ubiquitous flat-panel displays are much more energy efficient than the old CRTs, and the typical 42-inch set uses no more electricity in a year than two standard light bulbs.