During the 2004 Consumer Electronics Show, Consumer Technology Association CEO Gary Shapiro made a bold statement during his keynote address to attendees.
“While consumers love our products, they are also scared of them,” Shapiro said. “They find [them] complex and confusing.”
Shapiro recommended that companies strive to simplify the entire process, from improving instruction manuals to training salespeople on how to better communicate the complexities of new technology.
Fifteen years later, little has changed. Whether it’s a 4K TV, or a new smart phone or tablet, today’s devices still seem to require an engineering degree to go along with that extended warranty.
Electronics stores are populated with signs that scream out technical gibberish seemingly lifted from a Star Trek episode.
“High Dynamic Range.” “X-Motion Clarity.” “Wider Color Gamut.” “TruMotion.” “Full Array LED Backlight.” “Dolby Atmos.” “802.11 Dual-Band.”
Is it any wonder that most people head back home after a quick gaze around their neighborhood CE store? They are intimidated, confused and frustrated.
Sure, today’s products are so exciting in concept that many brave souls actually buy something. This despite a round or two of confusing tech talk from a sales clerk who usually joined the store after a three-month stint at the Gap.
However, when the consumer brings home the device, his excitement is often quashed when he tries to learn how to use it. Product manuals usually feature confusing diagrams and excruciatingly small type to accompany those arcane technical terms. And calls to technical support units at technology companies could try the patience of Job.
All in all, the consumer is often lost — and so is the consumer electronics industry, because that consumer is less likely to recommend the product to a friend. In fact, if anything, he might dissuade a friend from going through such a frustrating experience. (By example, how many 4K TV owners caution their friends from buying one as well because it’s so difficult to self-calibrate the settings to achieve the best picture? Or, how many people bad-mouth a live streaming service because they can’t figure out how to get a consistent picture, at least most of the time.)
As the author of a site called, TV Answer Man, I have committed myself to providing clarity and simple solutions to today’s most difficult TV technology issues. But the industry needs to wake up and do its part, as Shapiro urged 15 years ago.
Perhaps, in fact, it’s time for Gary to give another speech.
— Phillip Swann