From TVs that come with their own instant replay, to phone answering machines that also display messages, to a vacuum cleaner that signals when it is done cleaning, to personal organizers that can receive and send e-mail miles from the nearest computer, consumer electronics companies seem poised for a revolution.
Retailers and marketers attending the Winter Consumer Electronics Show last week saw the first signs of changes in a range of products that further muddy the converging lines between computers, telephones, pagers, TVs and even watches that display paged messages.
"The world of electronics is poised to explode," said Sony Corp. of America President-CEO Michael P. Schulhof, delivering the keynote address at the show.
Mr. Schulhof said the switch to digitalization will increase competition as telephone, cable and satellite companies and traditional broadcasters vie for subscribers.
There were indications the new technologies and products could prompt major growth in consumer electronics advertising this year, though most companies declined to discuss specifics.
Marketers and consumer electronics retailers spent more than $2.2 billion advertising electronic products to consumers in the first nine months of 1994, up 26% from the year-earlier period, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
Among the new products likely to get the most ad support:
AT&T introduced an answering machine unlike any other. The TV Information Center takes audio messages but also accepts e-mail, limited news services and transaction-based data. The system is to go on sale in the Boston area in the spring, and will get major ad support from Young & Rubicam, New York.
Philips Consumer Electronics unveiled a Magnavox TV that replays 8 seconds of video in a window inside the normal screen. Grey Advertising is expected to give the feature a major introduction with spots playing up the possibility of sports fans doing their own instant replays.
A new generation of personal organizers from Motorola, Sony, Apple Computer, Sharp Electronics Corp. and others offers the ability to receive messages and news services in the field, in some cases without even a cellular phone present. They could be subject of the largest chunk of consumer advertising, depending on when some technology arrives. Later this year AT&T is to introduce an uplink service allowing some organizers to also send messages.
Video compact discs from Panasonic Co. and others will appear this year, though advertising may have to await next year when the industry agrees on standards allowing a full movie on a single disc. Current industry standards allow 73 minutes on a 5-inch disc.
Those devices are far from alone.
After several years of experimentation, mobile navigation systems that display maps as you drive are being sold by several companies, including Sony. Sharp has a snapshot printer for videocassette re-corders and camcorders.
Companies also looked to the future: Sharp showed a 22-inch liquid crystal display TV prototype that is about 4 inches thick and can hang on a wall.