The rise of the compact audio disc is music to the ears of both manufacturers and retailers at the Summer Consumer Electronics Show here.
Compact disc players are the brightest technology in a show that sees analysts predicting only "moderate" growth for the $30 billion-a-year consumer electronics industry.
Formally introduced in 1983 by Sony and N.V. Philips, the system that uses a laser beam to "read" digitally recorded high-quality sound has become the fastest selling product in consumer electronics history.
"It's really been phenomenal how fast it's grown," said John F. Doyle, chairman of Pioneer Electronics U.S.A., a major audio video electronics company.
Electronics Industries Association figures indicate that more than one million compact disc units will be sold in 1986. By contrast, it took television 11 years and video cassette recorders six years to reach the million unit selling mark.
The driving force behind this sales surge is the same one that drove television, VCR and home computer sales -- price. When they were introduced four years ago, compact disc systems were priced at $1,000 apiece. Last year, they sold in the $500 to $600 range. At this show, the new round of price cutting by companies such as Sony and Technics has fixed system prices at $299, with Pioneer's Doyle predicting that systems will be "selling for $199" at the retail level by Christmas, and close to $125 a unit by this time next year.
Compact disc players have become increasingly popular for car stereo systems, and companies such as Toshiba have placed it in the "boom boxes," the large portable stereos so popular in urban areas. In addition, because compact disc systems record information in digital form, they can be used as a memory storage device for personal computers. A single compact disc can store the information on 2,000 floppy discs.
Though compact discs have captured most of the attention at the electronics show, other product categories remain strong or offer signs of potential growth.
Impressed by the continuing strength of VCR sales, the EIA last week revised its 1985 projected sales figures upwards by two million units to an anticipated 11.5 million VCRs. That compares with approximately 7.6 milion VCRs sold in 1984.
The spectacular success of the VCR has spawned a new fast-growing video product. Last year, Kodak and several Japanese companies announced a "camcorder" -- a camera-recorder -- that uses 8 mm videotape, rather than the half-inch videotape used by Beta and VHS recorders.
Several prototypes of the 8 mm videplayers and cameras are on display and 8 mm is emerging as a standard video format, say industry participants. Hollywood studios are now exploring whether to issue their movies on 8 mm cassettes.
One relatively unusual video product making its presence felt here is the satellite dish capable of receiving television signals from broadcast satellites. There are three times the number of satellite dish companies here this summer than were here a year ago. Estimates are that more than one million satellite dishes can be found at rural and suburban homes across the country. Some analysts project that more than 400,000 satellite dishes will be sold this year in the wake of congressional legislation and Federal Communication Commission rulings that lift restrictions on them.
While most consumer electronics products are experiencing at least modest growth, the home computer and software sector -- once an industry star -- remains sluggish. Despite increased unit sales, retailers and manufacturers are upset with declining revenues and margins. Both Commodore International Ltd. and Atari Corp. are counting on powerful new higher-priced machines to spark new interest in home computers, but retailers are skeptical.
Similarly, software industry sales remain virtually flat with little in the way of new or innovative products at this show. future of this industry is in compact disc memory," said Bill Bowman, chairman of Boston-based Spinnaker Software. "Three years from now, our software will be on a five-inch compact disc."