Triumphant Electronics Industry Unwraps Latest Gizmos, Gadgets

Fresh off the biggest sales month in personal computers and one of the biggest for televisions, the consumer electronics industry comes together today to flaunt the next generation of products.

More than 95,000 people are expected at the four-day Winter Consumer Electronics Show, the largest gathering of the makers and sellers of the things that plug into the wall, a $56 billion industry in 1994.

Historically dominated by television and stereos, the convention also has become a prime spot to see the latest personal computers.

The Electronic Industries Association, which sponsors the show, estimates sales of personal computers passed ordinary TVs in dollar volume for the first time in 1994. With projection TV sets included, overall TV sales in dollar volume still exceeded personal computers, $8.3 billion to $8.0 billion.

Another sign of the growing importance of consumers to the PC industry is that the chief of the largest PC software firm, Microsoft Corp.’s Bill Gates, will make his first appearance at the trade show on Saturday.

The chief executive officer of Sony Corp.’s U.S. operations, Mickey Schulhof, will use his keynote speech today to talk about the growing role computer technology plays in TVs, stereos and other consumer products.

“There is a transition process going on as the next series of hardware is brought out in 1995,” said Gary Shapiro, group vice president of the Electronic Industries Association.

While video game makers have had the largest displays at the electronics show several years, the manufacturers of televisions and stereos still play a dominant role.

Television sales roared to nearly 25 million units last year, a record driven by people interested in bigger screen sets and home theaters. Car stereos enjoyed another boom year as consumers continued to upgrade their systems from playing cassette tapes to compact discs.

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