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Philips Showcasing Plasma TV, Blu-ray At Int'l. CES

1/05/2006 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Philips will use International CES to showcase new plasma TV and Blu-ray Disc technologies while celebrating the acceleration of its dual-brand strategy that helped improve the company's profit picture in 2005.

Reinier Jens, Philips Electronics North America president, said the company's “sense and simplicity” message and the development of innovative, meaningful and easy-to-use products helped the company improve sales and profitability in the third quarter of 2005.

The company, he said, was bolstered by new product innovations including the expansion of the AmbiLight flat-panel TV line, products featuring wireless connectivity solutions and very strong demand for products in its mainstream business, particularly LCD TVs, under both the Philips and Magnavox labels.

At CES, Philips will maintain that course by introducing the next stages in the evolution of those technologies and product strategies, Jens said.

Taking the spotlight in the company's premiere Philips-branded business will be its first Blu-ray disc player, although details were not available at press time.

Also being highlighted are the company's new AmbiLight flat-panel TVs, including models that now offer rear illumination on three and four sides of the panel, instead of just two.

The four-sided AmbiLight models ship with an “integrated canvas” that hangs on the wall behind the panel to create the illusion that the TV is floating in the air. The package intensifies the surrounding colored lighting, and provides what Philips calls “the ultimate viewing experience.”

The backing canvas allows the panel to be mounted on any wall surface, including natural wood or brick, without interfering with the AmbiLight effect.

Three-sided versions expand the viewing experience of the current left and right side AmbiLight 2 models by adding rear lighting to the top of the panel.

Scott Levitan, Philips Consumer Electronics North America premiere marketing and sales VP, said AmbiLight has been very successful for Philips since its launch two years ago.

The 2006 line will include high-definition models including a 37W-inch LCD TV shipping in June at a $2,299 suggested retail, a 42W-inch plasma shipping in June at $2,499, a 50W-inch plasma set with two-sided AmbiLight 2 shipping in June at $3,499, two models with three-sided AmbiLight 3, including a 42W-inch LCD TV shipping in July at $2,999 and a 50W-inch plasma set shipping in July at $3,999, and a flagship 42W-inch LCD TV set shipping in July at $3,999 with the four-sided AmbiLight 4 Full Surround function.

“As we go into 2006 we want AmbiLight to become more accessible,” said Levitan. “We believe that the viewing experience is no longer just for the most expensive sets.”

Three premium Philips LCD TVs in the 32W-inch, 37W-inch and 42W-inch screen sizes — including 42W-inch AmbiLight 3 and 4 models — will also include Philips' “Clear LCD” backlighting technology that is designed to “speed up perceived response time” and reduce motion blur, improve contrast and boost light output.

Clear LCD technology strobes LCD backlighting and fire pixels only as needed — instead of lighting pixels continuously as they open and close — to virtually eliminate motion smear.

Where most LCD TV use cold cathode florescent backlighting that can only be dimmed to about 40 percent brightness, Clear LCD panels use hot cathode florescent backlighting technology, which can be dimmed to 5 percent brightness for strong black levels, Philips said.

In other flat-screen news, Philips will introduce a new 63W-inch screen size in plasma in 2006, but specs were not available as this went to press.

In Philips' mainstream business, the company will continue to advance its dual-brand direction this year by expanding the DLP rear projection HDTV line that launched quietly under the Magnavox brand last year.

Andy Mintz, Philips mainstream marketing senior VP, said “in DLP we used Magnavox to learn last year. We didn't open it up to everybody. We wanted to use a controlled demand approach.”

In 2005, Magnavox DLPs were used by some national accounts to “go up against some other entry level offerings. In 2006 we are announcing a dual brand approach, introducing both Magnavox and Philips DLP sets,” he continued.

Philips DLP models will feature the 50W-inch and 60W-inch screen sizes, with Philips' PixelPlus video enhancement circuitry and cabinet styling that is clearly differentiated from Magnavox models, Mintz said. Prices were to be announced later, he said.

“We are going to come full force in DLP this year,” said Mintz. “We view DLP as part of our overall flat strategy for Philips, including plasma, LCD and DLP.”

The mainstream business will also encompass LCD TV, plasma TV, direct-view CRT, audio, rear-projection CRT and DVD home and portable products.

Plasma models in 2006, will move from a pair of 42W-inch Magnavox models in 2005 to a 42W-inch HDTV and a 50W-inch HDTV.

The brand will also expand its successful LCD TV lineup, with a 37W-inch HDTV highlighting the new entries, Mintz said.

The Magnavox and Philips LCD TV lines use “completely different tooling.”

In LCD/DVD combo products, Magnavox will stress a widescreen assortment including a new 20W-inch model. Mintz said the full range is still under review as the company adjusts to the FCC's tuner mandate issues.

Philips will be looking to drive the larger-screen direct-view CRT business in 2006 as other manufacturers scale back or drop the category entirely, Mintz said.

Highlighting the direct view CRT assortment will be nine models in the 27-inch, 32-inch and 30W-inch screen sizes under the Magnavox and Philips brands, Mintz said.

“We are bullish on CRT,” Mintz said. “We think it offers strong picture quality at a reasonable price and will continue to offer a strong market for years to come.”

Larger screen models — 27 inches and larger — will have integrated ATSC tuners and are due in March.

In 2006, Philips-branded direct view products will all have Real Flat picture tubes and will include screen sizes of 20-inches and higher. Magnavox models start at 13 inches and higher.

In portable DVD, the company will use a heavy design approach and will make strong use on the Philips brand, Mintz said.

New 2006 models will be offered in the 7-inch, 8-inch and 10.2-inch screen sizes. Premium models will employ some unique features including Philips' “Zero Bright Dot” promise, which eliminates bright pixel defects in LCD screens.

Model PET1002, which ships in February at a $399 suggested retail, includes 10.2-inch Zero Bright Dot LCD panel. It will offer over five hours of playback time.

The company will also show a palm-sized portable DVD player, model PET320 (shipping in February at $129) featuring a 3.5-inch LCD screen built into the player's cover. The design uses a spherical form factor similar to a CD portable.

New DVD player models in 2006 will stress the use of HDMI outputs and high-definition up-conversion, Mintz said.

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