CEMA: '99 CES a Huge Success

This will be a huge year for the electronics industry, insiders are saying in the wake of the just-finished 1999 Consumer Electronics Show. This one "surpassed anything we've seen before," said Gary Shapiro, the president of the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association, in a post-Show statement. "Our industry is driving the technologies that will define the digital age."

Overall factory sales are expected to hit $80 billion this year, an increase of more than 5% over 1998's figures, with significant leaps in home information systems, electronic games, and mobile electronics. The only stagnant sector is expected to be---guess what?---home audio, which is predicted to suffer a slight setback in '99, despite the increasing popularity of DVD players and the advent of new audio technologies like MP3 and the Super Audio CD.

Although this year's CES seemed to Stereophile scribes to be less well attended than the 1998 version, CEMA, who puts on the annual extravaganza, reported quite the opposite. "Record numbers," the association claimed, with more than 1800 exhibitors sharing 1,090,000 square feet of space. Total attendance was 97,334---an increase of 6.5% over the previous year. This figure reflects only official attendees, not the many hangers-on who managed to wangle their ways into the Show. So much for subjective impressions.

Shapiro was enthusiastic about not only the success of CES, but also the promise of the coming year, noting that electronics have become an integral part of every aspect of life. Consumer electronics now mean much more than simply a "wired den, living room, or car," he said. "Now it means a digital lifestyle. As our industry changes and consumer electronics, telephony, and computing products blend, technology businesses are redefining themselves every day. CES is the best resource in this evolution."