By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Uniden's forays into the GPS navigation and digital still camera market may be just the beginning, president Richard Tosi told TWICE.
Since taking the reins as president of the company in 2005, Tosi has pushed to expand the Uniden brand into a variety of product categories to diversify in the face of the price erosion that has beset the cordless phone category.
"We are very strong in cordless, but that category as a whole has been flat for some time. We're debt free and have a good relationship with our channel partners, there is never going to be a better time for us to do this," he said.
The first steps in what Tosi hopes is a broader transformation were seen at International CES, where the company introduced its first GPS devices and announced that it brought a pair of digital cameras to market during the holidays. The cameras were sold largely online, through Circuit City and other dealers and have since sold through.
"We didn't bring over a lot — we were conservative, but we were happy with the response we got," Tosi said. There are no immediate plans to bring more cameras to the market, but the company is studying the possibility of additional camera introductions — and not just cameras.
"Will Uniden offer LCD TV? Maybe," Tosi speculated. The firm's Japanese parent company sells LCD televisions into the Asian market, he observed.
As to the larger question of whether Uniden can successfully transform itself from a communications brand to a consumer electronics provider, Tosi pointed to the experience of other brands in transition.
"When I grew up, Westinghouse was my refrigerator and Polaroid was my camera. Now, Westinghouse is my TV and Polaroid is a DVD player. We are going into this with our eyes open and we will be conservative," Tosi said.
As for the core communications business, Uniden is preparing a second-generation DECT product for the fall, Tosi said. Based on how the DECT market plays out, the product could be a full-featured cordless to hit premium price points or a value-oriented phone to compete on price if DECT fails to become the successor to 5.8GHz digital.
"We'll wait and see how the market reacts to DECT," Tosi said. "In any event, we'll have a product to address how it shakes out."
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.