Industry Forum Addresses Convergence

Industry leaders met in Virginia last week to discuss convergence trends in the consumer-electronics, telecommunications, and computing industries, and how these trends are affecting manufacturers, retailers, and consumers. The Convergence Forum, hosted by the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association's Communication and Information Technology (CIT) and Integrated Home Systems (IHS) divisions, took place at the Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA) Spring Conference.

Speakers at the forum addressed a range of issues, including convergence's impact on manufacturers' selling cycles, products and services, changing retail needs, and consumer acceptance. The session, attended by more than 100 industry representatives and government officials, included several people from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and featured speakers from manufacturing, market-research, and retail companies. A demonstration of convergence technologies and products followed the discussion.

"The CE, IT, and telecommunications industries all have different business models, product cycles, and regulatory environments, and they speak different languages," remarked CEMA's president, Gary Shapiro, at the conference. "But, increasingly, our products are called on to work together while our industries are creating new categories of products. This discussion is an example of how companies who once defined themselves as CE or IT companies are now thinking and working together across traditional industry boundaries. I am pleased that CEMA can provide a platform for these discussions."

Presentations included a review of convergence trends by Mike Grubbs, director of convergence products for Gateway and chairman of CEMA's CIT division, and Peter Lesser, president of X-10 and chairman of CEMA's IHS division. Henry Chiarelli, RadioShack's senior vice president of business development, new business, and emerging technologies, discussed the growing importance of convergence and broadband technologies in the consumer retail market.

Tricia Parks, president of Parks Associates, a Dallas-based market-research firm, presented the latest consumer research on home-networking and convergence technologies. Mark Bridgwater (VP of marketing for Digital Harmony), Dave Hill (VP of residential technology at AMX), and Herman Sperling (VP of marketing for Harman Consumer Group) joined forum speakers in a panel discussion moderated by CEMA's Gary Shapiro.