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Shapiro: Innovation Will Lead CE Industry Out of Its Blahs

‘2009 is a year none of us wish to repeat’

The year 2009 was a difficult one for the consumer electronics industry, which saw the first drop in overall revenues in almost 20 years.

As he opened the Consumer Electronics Show here in Las Vegas, Consumer Electronics Association President/CEO Gary Shapiro said the industry’s shipment revenue dropped 7.8% in 2009, though unit volume grew (indicating that consumers were buying more products but at value pricing).

He’s looking forward to 2010, when “We forecast the industry will return to growth.”

CEA expects growth thanks in part to consumer interest in efficient, portable devices that deliver content anywhere. Shapiro noted that 12 of 22 tech zones in the convention exhibit halls are new this year, a reason to be optimistic about innovation in consumer electronics.

The industry will generate about $165 billion in U.S. shipment revenues this year, according to CEA’s latest forecast, a slight increase.

The organization projects that by 2010, wireless phones will surpass televisions as the industry’s single largest category. Smartphones are driving much of wireless phone revenues, with 52 million units producing $17 billion in revenue last year. Meanwhile the popularity of netbooks is boosting the computer sector, which should be a bright spot, CEA reported. “Netbook sales more than doubled in 2009 as the computer category showed stronger sales than previous forecasts predicted. In 2010, more than 30 million notebooks will be sold, generating more than $14 billion in revenue.”

Blu-ray players should continue to grow after a strong 2009. The television market, recently hot thanks to high-definition, flat-panel sets, will grow in unit sales, but price drops will cause display revenue to decline slightly to $22 billion, the organization thinks.

“Innovation in TV displays, such as 3D, Internet connectivity and OLED technology, will continue to grow and help maintain revenue in the display category. CEA projects sales of more than 4 million 3D television sets in 2010. “

CEA plans to expand its membership to consumers in 2010. Shapiro described an initiative of reaching out to tech enthusiasts, the best customers of its members. Shapiro said more information would come out in the next several months. CEA also has begun an initiative called CE Cares, giving consumers tips on issues such as TV viewing/mounting and cell phone disposal.

Following Shapiro, several Ford executives spoke about their plans for 2010, including previously reported plans to include iTunes via HD Radio technology in cars. The automaker also announced a deal with Pandora to help drivers use Internet radio in new Fords.