By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
LAS VEGAS — Panasonic CEO Kazuhiro Tsuga used his 2013 International CES keynote address here Tuesday to shine the spotlight on the company’s expanding innovation roles in the worlds of eco-engineering, B to B sales, white goods, avionics, and connected home and automotive electronics, much of which is anchored to its expertise in display technology.
Although like other companies at the show, Panasonic has shown difficulty in recent years coping with the pressures of the changing global economy, Panasonic used CES to unveil a 56-inch 4K OLED TV as a statement for its possible future direction. The CEO said his company is using its expertise in RGB printing technology to help make OLED 4K displays larger and more economically than its competitors.
Tsuga said after his address that Panasonic used the 27-pound, 0.5-inch-thin high-resolution display as a technology statement, and not as a product with immediate plans in the consumer marketplace. He did, however, make it clear that Panasonic’s evolving technology role is no longer strictly focused on living room home entertainment.
“Panasonic's future is being built on far more than a single product category and its contribution to people's lives is extending far beyond the living room. We are focusing our business activities on four broad areas in which we impact people's lives — residential, non-residential, personal and mobility. With people, who unite them, at the center of all our activities, we want to add value to customers' lives wherever they are,” Tsuga said.
After his speech, Tsuga told TWICE that “4K and OLED are both new display technologies we are looking at. Whenever we develop new directions, we need to have good applications and good content. Thus we are looking and finding out. That’s something that the industry has to do. We are just starting, so we showed the possibilities of what sort of displays will come.”
The new display technologies, he said, could appear in other forms and for different applications that don’t even exist yet. But Panasonic will continue to monitor global trends to find the right fit and the best timing for introduction.
In its current TVs, Tsuga and Panasonic North American president Joe Taylor said the company is expanding its smart-TV innovations with the addition of Panasonic's “Your TV” interface that gives users the ability to personalize and customize their home screen.
“It's all you could ever want from your TV and more — broadcast channels, video on demand, smart search and a rich social experience at your fingertips,” Tsuga said. “All you have to do is say ‘My Home Screen,’ and the built-in camera and facial-recognition technology bring up your personal page.”
The company, he said, is also working towards the realization of Internet-based TV program broadcasting, viewing programs over smart devices, and advertising targeted to the user.
“Our concept for Your TV embodies everything that we want you to know about where Panasonic is going: how we are expanding our reach from hardware manufacturer to a total solutions and service provider, how we are working closely with other global leaders, and how these things are allowing us to develop deeper and ongoing relationships with customers that add maximum value to their lives,” Tsuga said. “With these initiatives we are beginning a truly new era at Panasonic. But rest assured, engineering new audio/visual technology that meets customer needs is as important as ever. We will continue to lead the industry in the development of plasma and LCD TVs, and a whole range of innovative new products.”
Meanwhile, Panasonic is exploring new strategic opportunities in areas such as B to B consumer electronics, software and services. He showed a 20-inch tablet that is designed for professional applications.
As one potential application for the tablet, he cited photographers who need a larger high-resolution display than conventional tablets have today, but with full touchscreen operation and handwriting recognition applications to fine-tune exposure adjustments and image tweaks.
Tsuga put environmental engineering and innovation at the forefront of the company’s goals for the future, underscoring its development of eco-friendly homes, autos and businesses through its ongoing work in solar panels, lithium-ion batteries and connected Cloud technologies.
In his speech, Tsuga also introduced a range of partners working with Panasonic on various aspects of its wide-ranging, eco-friendly business plan. Special guests included Tim Vanderhook, co-founder and CEO of Specific Media, who spoke to targeted advertising technologies; Phil Abram, chief infotainment officer of General Motors, who talked about Panasonic efforts in the connect car space; Rob Fyfe, former CEO of Air New Zealand, who spoke of new lighter and cheaper in-flight entertainment electronics systems that Panasonic is creating; and Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, N.J., who talked of the new home of Panasonic’s soon-to-open eco-friendly U.S. headquarters in his home city.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.