At last January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), stated (through a very clever video montage that put him in classic films) that it would be consumer electronics that would help pull the country out of recession.
While it’s almost a year later, and although there are signs that we’ve probably hit bottom, many Americans are still unemployed or underemployed and this could be the worst holiday season for retailers in decades. So did Shapiro jump the gun on stating that innovation would save us sooner than expected?
Not really. In fact, this economic downturn was probably worse than many could have foreseen, and in truth there were so-called “experts” who were saying we were through it probably before we really were. But it is interesting that in a recent Q&A with the CEA’s Smart Brief that Shapiro is pretty saying the same thing about innovation now:
“The CE industry typically follows the economy; but with exciting products, we can stay ahead of even a slow economy. With innovation, we can even pull the economy along. We expect growth in mobile and wireless products and in netbooks. E-books will quickly evolve into multifunction devices.”
With this mindset, load up that video presentation and show it one more time. Since so many of the big tradeshows look the same year after year – the booths are the same, the discussion often turns to recycling anyway, and the venues never really change – who would notice if the same presentation was given?
But in a closer look, Shapiro is right. We’re seeing some innovation. E-books, or e-readers, are becoming an even bigger category since last year, and the upcoming Que book could even take these leisure devices and prove there is business functionality in this category. The Que book is from Plastic Logic and will let users read newspapers and even check out documents.
And the netbook category just keeps getting bigger. If cloud computing actually takes flight we can expect these ultra sleek laptops to be very crucial to business users – still have to figure out how useful cloud computing is for those road warriors who actually spend time in real clouds flying around the world, however. But the point is that innovation is continuing to lead the way.
The final point is that there is one area where all the innovation in the world won’t fix the economy, and this is again the unemployed and the underemployed. People simply can’t spend money if they’re not making any or struggling every day. So while innovation might be great, no one wants to see lots of great products they can’t afford to buy.