International CES - Day 0

The day before the official opening of the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is designated as press day. That means all the heavy hitters in the consumer-electronics business, whose names are household words, not only get to display their latest wares to the press before the curious hordes descend -- they also get to tell us why they're the greatest companies to ever stimulate an electron.

On January 7, it sounded like all those major companies bought their speeches from the same speech writer. They all trumpeted "thin," "flat," "networked," "wireless," and "broadband," plus both "smaller" and "larger" than ever before -- smaller for music devices and camcorders, larger for video displays, especially the LCD and plasma varieties. Any company failing to show a 60-inch plasma display -- even if it couldn't sell you one for another six months -- wasn't worth its picture tubes.

When it comes to networking, confusion reigns with products variously adhering to the Bluetooth, 802.11A, and 802.11B (WiFi) standards and even a few with infrared networking. Another trend finds most, if not yet all, new DVD players and CD players supporting one or more compressed audio format such as MP3 and Windows (WMA).

All of the companies also asked us reporters to thank you, the consumers. While the general U.S. economy tanked, consumer-electronics sales rose during the last three months of 2001, and every company in the field enjoyed a profitable autumn. Sony's president, Fujio Nashida, exuberantly announced that his company achieved record sales during that period.