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Tech putting users in control

Speaker at opening of Vegas show notes shift

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Sony showcases the QUALIA 017, a gold-plated MD MiniDisc player, at Las Vegas Convention Center.

Sony showcases the QUALIA 017, a gold-plated MD MiniDisc player, at Las Vegas Convention Center.

Damian Dovarganes, Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — The new wave of consumer electronics technology puts users in control of what they want to hear and see, as well as where and how they see it, according to to Gary Shapiro, president and chief executive officer of the Consumer Electronics Association.

Presenting his "state of the industry" speech at the opening of the International Consumer Electronics Show on Thursday, Shapiro acknowledged that much of the technology is disruptive to "other, less-agile industries," but it also presents new business opportunities.

Users have discovered that DVD recorders, digital cameras and desktop digital editing and production tools have shifted control of the content to consumers, he said.

"Consumers have become the new creative community," Shapiro said. "Consumers want to create, manipulate and distribute content."

He credited advances made in digital technology for much of the transformation.

"This show reflects a shift to the promise of the digital dream, where content, devices and people are free from the analog barriers that kept them apart," he said.

Technology brought to the world the telephone, phonograph, TV, VCRs, fax machines, cell phones and the Internet.

"The inevitable march of change continues, to bigger, to better, smaller, quicker — all with the services, features, products and benefits," Shapiro said.

Many changes are focused on portability, wireless access and content awareness, he said. Describing some devices, he said, "They learn, they sense, they respond."

A convergence of features, simplification of form and time- and place-shifting is now real, he said, echoing the oft-heard mantra of being able to see what you want, when you want it, where you want it on the device you select.

"These products are changing how we work and how we play. They save fuel, promote health, allow teleworking, create new businesses and are catalysts even for new business models," he said.

While consumer electronics sales grew 11 percent from 2003 to 2004 and a similar increase is expected in 2005, Shapiro warned of problem areas in the industry. Several industries have fought digital technology — television, the Internet and digital radio — but legal uses of content, such as peer-to-peer file sharing, need to be protected, he said.

Also, the cable industry is working to delay implementation of the digital TV transition through changes in Federal Communications Commission rules designed to promote competition, he said.

Shapiro also stressed that automakers need to be receptive to the idea of aftermarket consumer electronics being put in their vehicles, because CE companies are able to bring products to consumers more quickly than carmakers.

"Look at the CD player, car navigation, car video, digital radio, car security, and remember how it was the aftermarket sellers . . . who introduced these phenomenal products to consumers," he said.

E-mail: bwallace@desnews.com