Epson America introduced at CES a home theater-focused video projector business that will capitalize on the company's strength as a key LCD components supplier for video projection systems, and its reputation as a digital imaging resource.
"We have a plan to expand our presence into new segments of the market," Rajeev Mishra, Epson consumer projectors director, explained about the new aggressive path into home theater systems. "We have more patents in optics and LCD design than any company in the world, and we view the living room as a very exciting market that we want to be a part of. "
Epson showed both front- and rear-projection television monitors for the home theater assortment.
Three-chip LCD-based rear-projection models will be part of Epson's "Living Station Series," and include 47W- (LS-47P1, $3,700 suggested) and 57W-inch (LS-57P1, $4,000 suggested) screen sizes, both incorporating what Epson is calling "Photo on demand" capability.
This includes the use of multi-format (MemoryStick, SD/MMC, Smart Media, CompactFlash, and an adapter is included for xD cards) flash memory card slots that will display JPEG images on the video screen, and an external CD-R drive to play back image files from CDs. Each rear-projection model will also include an integrated 4-by-6 dye-sublimation photo printer.
The Living Station models are designed to allow consumers to "view, print and archive their digital photos from a very simple remote control," Mishra said. "For the mass audience, the opportunity is in making digital photography easy and similar in nature to analog," he explained.
Epson said that in 2003 digital cameras achieved a 30-percent penetration rate and will continue to grow significantly, "but the experience [of enjoying photos through a PC] is not what most consumers are used to. With these rear-projection televisions, we are bringing photography back into the living room, which is where we believe it belongs."
Incorporating a printer in the TVs "was critical" for such applications, he said, because the target customer demands ease of use.
Epson will offer a package of dye-sublimation photo paper and imaging cartridge to support the Living Station TVs. The 50-pack will carry a suggested retail of $14.99, which translates to approximately 29 cents a print.
The rear-projection monitors offer native 1,280 by 720p HDTV picture performance, and a full complement of in/out jacks including HD component, DVI, DVI-HDCP, VGA for PC and RGB sources, S-video and composite. Mishra said the TVs are positioned as the hubs for future in-home entertainment networks.
Also in the line are three, 3-chip LCD front projectors including the entry-level PowerLite Home 10 ($1,300 suggested, available now). The unit displays a native 16:9 widescreen image at 480p EDTV resolution levels.
Two step-up models will be focused more toward higher-end home theater installers. The PowerLite Cinema 200 ($3,000 suggested), offers 1,280 by 720p resolution, native 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio, 1,300 ANSI lumens and an 800:1 contrast ratio.
The PowerLite Cinema 500 ($5,000 suggested), also offers 1,280 by 720p resolution and 16:9 aspect ratio, but adds improved image quality through the use of Faroudja DCDi video processing on interlaced standard definition material and DVI-HDCP.