Mike McGann

by Mike McGann It's been pronounced, bemoaned and belittled as a dead category. For a segment claimed to be on the verge of a toe tag and an autopsy, audio showed a whole lot of life at the International Consumer Electronics Show last month. As has been the case for a while, home theater gear seemed to grab center stage, but there were actually some interesting two-channel products nestled among the subwoofers and center-channel speakers. One new technology, SACD, Sony's new high definition audio system, got a boost from both Pioneer and Sharp, both of which announced product for later this year featuring the new audio format.

The growth potential of our industry rests in new and innovative ways to move and use digital audio, video and data. But without copyright protection of digital content, that growth has been stymied. At the Western Show in Los Angeles in December, we watched hardware vendors and service providers dance around the opportunities and challenges posed by retail-able cable modems and cable compatibility with HDTV sets. At CES 2000, we admired the latest crop of HDTV sets, the DVD-R and DVD-HD prototypes, and the digital video recorders. Amid the CES festivities, Federal Communications Commission Chairman William Kennard delivered an ultimatum to the cable, consumer

You don't see a lot of ad circulars from them in the newspaper. No screaming commercials. No performers in large stuff animal suits to drum up business. Yet, walk into one of their 13 locations (plans for four more are on the drawing board), and invariably, the place is at least half full of customers, ranging from first-time computer buyers to do-it yourselfers in to pick up a new board, cable or add-on. MicroCenter has the best kind of advertising: word of mouth, which is pretty much how the business began to grow from its first store in Columbus, Ohio, which opened in 1977

By Laura Spinale Except for a couple of powerhouse retailers, the word that seemed to be leaping off major appliance retailers lips this past year was "turnaround." And with good reason. Retailers retrenched, closed stores, cut product lines, even filed for bankruptcy. But now, it seems, the worst is over, with some painful lessons learned. It's a flat market, but some major appliance retailers have learned, or are learning, to survive. The nation's top 25 major appliance retailers in 1997 pulled down $10.29 billion in category sales, representing a slight drop from the $10.47 billion garnered in 1996. Despite Montgomery Ward's fiscal woes (it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection

When Comdex Spring opens this month in Chicago, much of the focus will be on the soon-to-be released Windows 98 from Microsoft. A major revision from the current Windows 95, Windows 98 fully integrates Internet Explorer, while adding support for DVD, USB and video input. Aside from the rather vast integration of Explorer into the operating system (you can surf your hard drive from just one window, instead of stacking windows on top of each other), Windows 98's ability to repair itself may likely draw the rave-est reviews. The system software actually checks itself to see if all key components are in place and

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