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Sim2 Relies On Innovation To Stand Alone

5/17/2011 11:15:02 AM Eastern
Pordenone, Italy - Faced with a home theater video display market that is moving more and more toward commoditization, Sim2 is separating itself by maintaining both premium prices and an elite product profile within the high-end home theater projector business.

 Sim2
While this step may seem counterintuitive to those living in the cut-throat mainstream consumer electronics channel, Sim2 USA executive VP Alberto Fabiano said it makes perfect sense when you see the growth of other premium goods from manufacturers that don't dicker on price, such as Ferrari or Apple.

In fact, as other display manufacturers are scaling back, Sim2 USA, which this year celebrates its 15th anniversary coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the Republic of Italy, continues to upgrade its R&D, assembly and service facilities here and even recently added a white room for the manufacture of its own DLP light engines using Texas Instruments' Digital Micromirror Devices (DMDs).

Simply put, Fabiano said, Sim2 is an elite high-performance front projector developer "dedicated to producing realism in the home that rises above everything else to people who can pay for it."

That mission might have slipped away if Sim2 had continued to follow a brief marketing divergence that saw it add an entry-level, Asian-sourced model (the D60) following the lead of its volume-oriented competitors. But the company quickly recalculated that strategy last year sensing the dangers of the commodity trap that has hurt other display makers.

The Sim2 brand is now once again focused solely on the production of high-value, Italian-assembled products worthy of a higher price tag that sophisticates can justify.

This is a mission that Maurizio Cini, global company parent Sim2 Multimedia president, now says he sees the company maintaining another 15 years in the future.

"We will invest in different technology, but in the future Sim2 will still be acting, and still leading the home theater market," Cini told TWICE, adding it is unlikely that Sim2 will look to integrate smart technologies into its displays, opting instead to focus on the company's strengths in the display component end of the business.

To help read and react to this segment, Sim2 is listening more carefully than ever to its 250 U.S. dealers, Fabiano said, calling them all "members of the Sim2 family."

"The Custom Integration channel is made of dealers. They are consultants and they really should be the brand. We are just suppliers, and we supply products that these people can use to propose to their customers excellent systems. They cannot do it themselves and we cannot do it without them."

"This is what is going to keep this channel up. If we aren't successful in doing that, this channel is going to disappear," Fabiano warned.

Cini said, "the value of a company like us to be able to provide customized service and support. We cannot even consider becoming part of a larger consumer distribution [operation] because we don't provide any special benefit to this. I think our strategy was right in the past and even if the market shrinks, because everyone is looking for numbers, there is still space for service excellence in specific products and specific brands."

At the same time the global parent Sim2 Multimedia is poised to add on to its current businesses including, commercial and home theater display systems, and LED room and area lighting systems.

The company recently acquired full rights to the Brionvega brand that is long known in Italy as a manufacturer of uniquely crafted radio, home audio and portable TV products. It is now formulating plans to expand that brand's reach into other markets in the near future. Details will be announced later, company executives assured.

Cini suggested that Brionvega could be taken into global markets that promise the Sim2 line the most growth and opportunity, including major emerging targets China and Indian, in addition to core growth pockets of Europe and the United States. The latter, he said, is Sim2's largest current global market segment, representing better than 30 percent of the global mix.

Unfortunately, Sim2 is faced with a difficult financial situation as the value of the U.S. Dollar continues to collapse against the Euro, and price increases seem inevitable this summer.

"We are fortunate to have very good relationships with our partners," Cini said. "We were obliged in the past to raise our prices because of this unfair currency situation and if nothing changes I think we will be obliged [to do it again]. Fortunately the value of our proposition is the stability, the protection and the quality of the product which enables us to share together with our partners, profit at times of a strong currency and at this time of not very favorable currency, we are obliged to share some increase of pricing cost.

"In the 12 or 13 years we were in the U.S. we have changed the price many times and I didn't ever measure trouble," Cini noted. "[That is] because people understood the reason, and they were smart enough to justify the different value proposition we bring."

Asked how he would expect his competition to react to a price hike, Cini said, "Based on cost we cannot compete even now with our current competitors because nowadays most of them are sourcing from China or someplace else in Asia. Fortunately our investments in R&D in the last year were so huge in delivering truly innovative products that I don't know what is going on with the others but I [feel confident] in following my own way."

In development is a High Dynamic Range (HDR) technology that Sim2 intends to use as a future local dimming technology that can be applied to next-generation flat-panel display systems in both flat-panel and in LED-based projection systems. The technology promises to deliver new levels of detail and color in images with both very bright and dark segments. But Cini said the high cost of adapting the technology will require a little more time before a product comes to the home theater market.

As for new products, Sim2 said it would maintain a virtual product per month introduction cycle throughout the year. So far, it has unveiled the C3X Lumis 3D Solo ($50,000 suggested retail) and the Lumis 3D Solo HC ($55,000), the Crystal 35 ($6,500) and the Crystal 45 ($8,500) models.

The Lumis 3D Solo  and Lumis 3D Solo HC 3D projectors are three-chip 1080p DLP projectors that emit up to 3,000 lumens of brightness at a 35,000:1 contrast ratio and come in a choice of three lenses (T1, T2 and T3) offering flexibility in throw distances to accommodate a range of installation scenarios.

Sim2 is the first consumer electronics company to make available Triple Flash 3D Technology, which Fabiano calls "the best way to watch 3D."

The technology flashes images at a rate of three times per eye instead of the standard two times per eye to eliminate any perceived flicker in the image.

The Solo 3D models also employ PureMotion 3D technology that is said to eliminate judder from fast-moving action. The Lumis Solo models ship with four pairs of Xpand 3D active-shutter glasses.

They join in the line the Lumis 3D Duo, which was shown at the 2010 CEDIA Expo. That system essentially pairs and synchronizes two Lumis 1080p projectors using Infitec passive glasses technology.

The recently introduced Crystal 35 and 45 projectors are single-chip DLP models with 2,000 and 2,600 lumens of brightness and a 30,000:1 and 50,000:1 contrast ratios, respectively.
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