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Shapiro: CE Will Save the World!

5:00 PM -- LAS VEGAS -- 2009 International CES -- Here's another sign that the ugly economy is top of mind here this week at the Las Vegas gadgetfest: It was about the only thing Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) chief Gary Shapiro talked about this morning during his state of the industry address.

In an attempt to tickle everyone's funny bone, a video montage at the beginning featured Shapiro inserting himself into a bunch of old movies using some service called Yoostar. Among them was Shapiro as Dr. Frankenstein holding the hand of the monster and declaring, "It's alive! It's alive!"

Later, there he was again during the happy ending of It's a Wonderful Life, playing the savings and loan guy counting a pile of greenbacks and sporting a grin wider than Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC)'s latest HDTV offering. Shapiro won't win an Oscar anytime soon, but he did win a few chuckles from the audience.

The industry is "gripped with the worst economy since the Great Depression," Shapiro noted later, stating the obvious. But, he was likewise super confident that the consumer electronics (CE) industry can rally the troops and help to pull everyone through the economic muck and come out smelling like a rose on the other side.

Innovation, he said, is "the best medicine to end economic stagnation." Innovation will "breathe life" into a stagnant economy, he said. Some things that will help: broadband, connected homes and cars, and... IPv6. (Really, that was on his list; tru2way was not.) (See Sony Keynote: Tru2way Denied.)

But he did have some real numbers to share. The U.S. CE industry saw 5.4 percent growth in 2008, down from expected growth of 6 percent. Still, 1 billion CE products were purchased last year. They're just getting cheaper in this economy.

Looking forward, he said the CEA expects industry revenues to be "flat" in 2009, or down 0.6 percent if you happen to be a realist. Unit volumes are growing, but, once again, pricing on those units is dropping like a rock.

Shapiro looked into his crystal ball again and declared that the "resilient" CE industry "will lead the way to an economic recovery," hopefully by 2010.

So take a chill pill, everyone. The CE industry's got it all handled.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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