Info & Answers
Where’s The Diversity in Consumer Electronics?
From design to features, have you noticed that most consumer electronics look alike?
August 13, 2008 by Richard M. Sherwin

While the spokespeople and marketing executives at the big consumer electronics companies remain mostly white males, their products, especially TVs, are mostly black.

Nearly every spokesperson (95% men) at the many recent product unveilings and press events touted, and I quote, “vibrant colors, products that fit the décor of your living space true integration of features, productivity, and connectivity.” And since many of these men talked about their kids and wives in their lifestyle talks, I’m not sure that these wives would be happy with the sameness and un-exciting look and feel of all these products.

Another typical comment from a recent product preview from a computer company entering the living room with a PC-TV system that mixed the Internet with cable TV content:

“My wife is usually so busy with her many opened spreadsheets and word documents that she welcomes the ability to run them while she watches her favorite soap operas at the same time.” Working while watching soap operas? Replace the words “spreadsheets and word documents” with vacuum cleaners and dishwashers and welcome to the 1950’s. (My wife, in reading this over my shoulder, is now tearing her hair out.)

And then this guy had the chutzpa to show taped highlights of the Super Bowl and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit TV show. OK, OK, I enjoyed it. But still… give me a break!

I went to another TV launch a few weeks ago. The stage: set up as a living room. The pitch: “how the smooth edges of this new plasma set makes the unit look like it belonged in the living room as a piece of furniture.” The irony: The TV’s strange object de art remote was so dark and blended in so well with the décor, the poor guy, for a frantic few minutes, actually couldn’t find it. Couldn’t they at least have given it a back light?

And, since I am interested in upgrading my audio system, I paid rapt attention at another launch as famous audio products maker really tried to sell me on the fact that (I couldn’t make this up) his Home Theater in a Box was in a different box then his competitors.

I swear I looked at the top three Home Theater In A Box units from four different companies and, while the audio quality was fine and you could really debate whether one unit had a better range or better real channel production, the sub woofer, as usual, was making some kind of larger than life and larger than necessary statement. But, and here’s my point, but there was no real difference in any of these products as far as style and looks were concerned.

Do all these companies use the same designer? Is there a law mandating that consumer electronics must be black-on-black? Or just a few splashes of red or grey?

The mobile phone you are using from Motorola, LG, Samsung and Sony Erickson also has very little diversity in features, looks, feel and pricing. It is the only instance where a service provider actually determines what hardware you are allowed to get. Kinda like the cable TV companies not only telling you what TV shows you could watch, but also that only certain would work with their cables. Give me a break. 

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Richard M. Sherwin - Contributing Writer
Richard Sherwin is a former syndicated technology columnist and TV/Radio analyst, who has also been a marketing executive with IBM, Philips, NBC and a chief advisor to several manufacturers and service providers.

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