We’re back with NBC news In Depth tonight. If you’re like a lot of people it’s just more stuff you don’t know how to use like the old VCR that has flashed 12:00 since the first time you plugged it in. But if you’re really into electronics and technology this is the best time of year.
The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas; question is will the hottest stuff on the market in an economy that’s stone cold ever get purchased? Lester Holt is there. It is where the electronics industry comes to tout their next best thing. This year it’s TVs that allow you to watch rental movies without buying a special box. And wireless electricity that could make power cords a thing of the past. But the biggest buzz this year is not about the future of technology but the future of the industry. “I think the mood’s a little bit down. There are definitely fewer people. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the industry.” Organizers braced for an eight percent drop in attendance at this year’s at CES as companies tighten their budgets. “This is quiet. It’s scary quiet.”
The electronics industry is coming off a rough 2008 that saw a 26 year-to-year drop in sales. While big screen TVs and big ticket items have taken a hit, cheaper favorites like video games have continue to sell well. Insiders say the next big thing may in fact be very small and affordable. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer predicts its windows mobile operating system will get a lift this year as more Americans turn to do everything smart phones. “In the US within five or six years this will be 85-90% of the market.” “The smartphone?” “Yeah.” And the newest thing in computers; netbooks. Tiny stripped down portable PC’s designed only for Web surfing and email and cost just a couple hundred dollars.
Useful and convenient, but will American consumers see any of this as must have? Almost everything here is a non-essential to your life, right? And so it’s finding ways to really connect with consumers and convince them of needs that maybe they don’t even know they have.” And that may require not a technological leap but a leap of faith by cautious consumers. Lester Holt NBC News, Las Vegas.