IT Cant Compete With Hollywood

IT was completely upstaged at CES, but that's entertainment.

The CES show just ended in Las Vegas. Energized by new personal entertainment products, the show can be one massive headache to those trying to avoid succumbing to gadget culture. I neglected to go this year. However, it was the second-most-talked-about computer industry conference of the past 12 months. (The most-talked-about show was Comdex, and the consensus was not favorable.)

Wait a minute. CES isnt a computer conference; its supposed to be about consumer electronics. You wouldnt think that if you had seen the list of keynote presenters, which included Craig Barrett, Michael Dell and Bill Gates. At least Sony President and COO Kunitake Ando was there to set things straight and remind everyone that CES is more about entertainment than IT.

The truth is that the battle for convergence is over, and entertainment has won. CES is a growing show while Comdex has flagged. The most influential "visionaries," such as Barrett, Dell and Gates, are gathering there as if CES is a show of equal importance to Comdex. While Comdex has a scattered focus that includes some entertainment devices, CES has remained focused.

IT, at best, has only a supporting role. It is almost as if all IT employees lost their jobs and just want to play games and watch videos. In fact, the hottest products at CES were personal video players brought to us by Intel, of all companies. The rest of CES is all about personal storage, PDAs, personal MP3 players and other gadgetry.

While IT just finished its worst year ever (slipping in revenue), the entertainment industry is strong. Hollywood, after all, had a record year in 2002—Americans spent as much going to the movies as the federal government spent on counterterrorism measures in the same year: nearly $10 billion.

But before we get carried away with entertainment culture, which is indeed a force, we must remember IT is not going away. The market for software in the United States was estimated to be $100 billion in 2002. IDC estimates the IT universe was worth $875 billion last year. The entertainment industry is fun to watch, but gadgets can get people only so far before someone somewhere thinks of ways that they can actually be made useful—and thats where IT comes in.

The big question is, When will IT come back? Write to me at