Fallout: The Financial Crisis

Electronics show slowed by recession

Bob Moon Jan 9, 2009
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Fallout: The Financial Crisis

Electronics show slowed by recession

Bob Moon Jan 9, 2009
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Bob Moon: Do you remember what you were doing exactly eight years ago today? Well it just so happens, I do. I was covering the big International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. And I recall that the thousands of vendors putting their latest gadgets on display back then weren’t really all that concerned even though the tech bubble was just going bust. It was on a lot of minds back in 2001 and I put the question to the founder of the show, Jack Wayman.

Moon: What about this economic downturn, and is this industry concerned about that at all?

Jack Wayman:We really aren’t, and I’ll tell you why. Since 1920, when radio went on the air, we have never had anything but an increased year for the last 80 years — we’ve never gone down.

Moon: Well, that was then, this is now — and these hard times must really be putting that resilience theory to the test. Our tech expert Kevin Pereira is at the show for us this year. Kevin, welcome back to the program.

Kevin Pereira: Bob, always a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Moon: What’s the floor like this year? Has CES really scaled back, or are they still pushing ahead with their virtual video guns blazing?

Pereira: The guns are, in some corners of the halls, shooting blanks this year. I mean, the convention itself is — to say it’s recession proof is like claiming the Titanic can cut through icebergs. We’re seeing, not only has the actual square-footage of the show been cut back this year, but many, many vendors have cut down on their booths entirely and they’re opting to kind of participate in CES through press releases or online web blurbs, as opposed to actually exhibiting on the showroom floor. So, definitely the economic downturn that we’re experiencing has absolutely affected the convention this year.

Moon: Well, why doesn’t the theory still hold true, though? I mean, the argument is that people are going to be staying at home more and they’re going to need cheaper entertainment at home.

Pereira: Yeah. The argument holds for certain sectors of the tech market. For example, we’re seeing internet delivered to your television is a big theme this year. It has been every year, but instead of just a shoebox with wires and LEDs and printed circuit boards hanging out of it, we’re seeing actual products that look like they might hit store shelves this year. And the reason people are looking to that is they’re saying, ‘Hey look, cable bills and satellite bills are getting way out of control. They’re just too expensive. So if a television set can offer me a wired connection, or a wireless connection to the internet right out of the box, well then, I might cancel my cable and just stream Hulu, or stream NBC or Comedy Central or YouTube videos directly to my television set.

Moon: Well, speaking of gadgets, where is the big buzz this year?

Pereira: The big buzz, just like last year, I think revolves around OLED. If you don’t like acronyms, it’s too bad. This one’s not going away any time soon. That brand new HD TV that you just bought for your living room, is not nearly good enough when compared to an OLED. It’s an organic light-emitting diode, meaning that the screen itself doesn’t have to be lit by any sort of backlight or florescent tubing. The screen is going to emit it’s own color, it’s own brightness. And when you see these visuals, it is, I mean, the nerds are moths to the flame here. But the big announcement that’s really taken CES by storm: If you remember last year it was all about the iPhone. Rather, two years ago. I’m sorry, 2007. This year Palm shocked everybody. I mean, here’s a company that had an operating system that made hand-held devices that people were starting to, quite frankly, forget about. And they came out and they announced the Palm Pre, which has many Apple and iPhone fanboys saying they’re going to chuck their device out the window the moment it hits store shelves.

Moon: Why so? Why do I need that device?

Pereira: Well, this device is a true multi-tasking phone. You can run multiple applications at once. It’s got a full QWERTY slide-out keyboard, which the iPhone simply doesn’t have. And, it’s really net enabled; the phone can cut and paste and send multimedia message, which the iPhone, surprisingly, still cannot. So, there’s a lot of reasons to be excited about a new operating system to compete with the iPhone.

Moon: Kevin Pereira, you may know him from television as host of G4’s “Attack at the Show.” Kevin, thanks for joining us.

Pereira: Bob, thank you again. Always a pleasure.

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