Techno-Dazzle Doesn’t Blind Worried Conventioneers

The possibility of war and fears about the economy threatened to upstage the dazzling technologies on display at the Intl. Winter Consumer Electronics Show here.

The confab showcases home audio and video gear that will reach the market later in the year and provides a forum for manufacturers. Formats such as laserdisk, 8m video, digital audio tape and digital compact cassettes have debuted, or will debut, at high prices. If consumers trim their discretionary purchases, industryites fear those technologies could be stalled at the gate.

Some 70,000 people are swarming to the Jan. 11 to 14 confab. About 1,580 exhibitors are attending.

Keynote speaker Richard A. Kraft, prez and chief operating officer of Matsushita Corp. of America, reminded industryites of how their business “rode high on this nation’s eight-year economic expansion,” but he bemoaned the loss of manufacturing in the U.S.

He also urged manufacturers to “expand local research and development. The creativity of R&D talent close to the local market can unleash a torrent of ideas.”

Among the new ideas being unleashed at this year’s show is Kenwood’s prototype for a home compact disk recorder/player. Dubbed the LZ-13, it’s a write-once unit that can play back home-recorded and prerecorded disks. Disks recorded on the LZ-13 can be played back on any standard CD player.

Kenwood emphasized it has no immediate plans to market the unit here.

DAT is finding itself up against digital compact cassette (DCC), another tape format being demonstrated by Philips and Tandy. Should the companies decide to market DCC machines, the first units would not likely be available until next year.

Of more immediate interest to the record industry is the double-digit growth of car CD players. Industry estimates put car CD sales at about 600,000 units in 1990.

Pioneer’s Mike Townsen reportedly projected 1991 sales of 1 million units. Matt Frankel, marketing director for car audio at Sony, predicted a 50% increase in unit sales.

In the audio/video system category, increasingly known as “Home Theater,” Lucasarts is unveiling its home THX system. The licensed technology involves a THX surround processor, three front speakers and two rear speakers as well as a separate subwoofer.

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