Not all doom and gloom. (computer industry) David H. Ahl.
From practically zero in 1978, the floor space devoted to computers and electronic games at the semi-annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) hit a peak at the 1983 Winter show. It has been downhill ever since. At the Summer 1985 show, fully one-quarter of the space originally allocated to computer manufacturers was reassigned to pre-recorded video producers.
On the other hand, although the number of exhibitors was down, there was a feeling of guarded optimism in the air. Jim Levy of Activision told me that he felt the inventory pipeline was finally almost empty of the enormous number of software packages ordered on the strength of the wildly optimistic forecasts of 1983-84. Other software manufacturers felt that although retailers had been burned badly, they were smarter for the experience and were now ordering realistic quantities. As a group, the educational software manufacturers were the most optimistic of all, generally feeling that both home and school users were willing to buy quality software.
On the hardware front, Japan, Inc. decided not even to show MSX. Hence, the only MSX machine commercially available in the U.S. is the Hong Kong-made Spectravideo Express. Thus without MSX as a major force, the low end of the market is wide open to the Commodore 64 and 128, Atari XL series, and Tandy Color Computer. And without the specter of a price war on the horizon, that second half of 1985 should be profitable for manufacturers and retailers alike.
On the other hand, the recent Creative Computing survey indicates that home consumers are moving up scale in their choice of machines. If only Apple would get off their business kick, they could probably sell gobs of Apple IIs and Macs into the home market. But if Apple abandons the upper end home market, it will be wide open for the Commodore Amiga (look for a $2000 bundled price) and Atari ST series. Following Apple's lead, Atari is now talking about a business market for the ST--fine from a performance standpoint, but ridiculous from a market acceptance standpoint. Another machine that might have some limited potential in the home market is the Laser 3000 from Video Technology. This almost Apple-compatible should sell for $500 or so, but obtaining widespread distribution will be a problem for the company. Another company facing distribution headaches is Amstrad who introduced the CPC1628, a hot seller in Europe.
In peripherals, we were impressed by the many inexpensive printers being shown by companies that had previously eschewed the home market: Epson, C. Itoh, NEC, Star, and others. Also being shown were some really innovative devices: the Soniture Space Pen, a 3-D entry device; Kraft's QuickStick, a joystick for the Macintosh; three computer interfaces to Tomy robots from Computer Magic; and ten robotic/computing kits from Fischer Technik.
So to the home market doomsayers, we can only repeat Mark Twain's immortal words, "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."