Hitachi told dealers at CEDIA Expo, here, that it has postponed plans to deliver this year a previously announced line of LCoS-based rear-projection HDTV sets, citing changing marketplace conditions that have, among other things, significantly reduced the price gap between plasma displays and microdisplay rear-projection products.
Leo Delaney, Hitachi's marketing VP, said the launch of the LCoS-based rear-projection line has been put off to an unspecified future date, declining to detail specific reasons for the decision.
Instead, the company will continue to sell its line of 720p 3LCD-based rear-projection microdisplay sets, and is sharpening its marketing focus on flat-panel plasma and LCD TVs.
“We have an opportunity to acquire a top-tier position in the plasma business and we intend to pursue that,” Delaney told TWICE.
Delaney said Hitachi will step up its marketing efforts in plasma, where the company recently made sizeable investments in plasma panel production.
At the same time, the company has seen competitors, including Panasonic, make large market gains in plasma with aggressive price moves.
“Our plan is to be aggressive in the marketplace in terms of our positioning of [plasma television], regarding market pricing,” Delaney said. “We haven't been a leader in pricing in the past. We feel that we now can respond to market changes more rapidly than we have in the past, and we have a very suitable technology for delivering high-performance. We have also developed a very efficient manufacturing process to reduce costs.”
At the same time, the company continued its recent foray into 3LCD-based front projectors for the custom-install and A/V specialty markets, by introducing a new step-up 720p model using a 32-step dynamically controlled dual-iris system. The projector, which offers a 5,000:1 contrast ratio, ships at the end of October at a $3,999 suggested retail price.
“We've been in front projectors for a long time on the business side, but have only recently introduced models for the custom home theater market,” Delaney said.
He said the company is now studying the possibility of using LCoS panels, which its parent corporation builds in Japan primarily for professional display systems, in a 1,080p front-projector model.
Meanwhile, Hitachi Home Electronics America recently named Kevin Sullivan as Hitachi's corporate strategic officer. Sullivan previously handled sales for Loewe Opta's U.S. marketing company and prior to that worked with GoVideo. He had also worked in the past with Delaney at Mitsubishi Electronics.
Sullivan said Hitachi views the custom installation and A/V specialty channels as its biggest opportunity for growth in the months ahead.
As a result the company is experimenting with using specialty rep firms in metro New York, Florida and Northern California.
“Our overall sales group is so short staffed that we don't have the arms and legs to service the smaller A/V specialty channel,” Sullivan said. “Those three marketplaces are rich in A/V specialty business.”
The rep firms Hitachi has selected — Audio Associates in New York, Zone Pacific Sales in San Francisco and Performance Marketing Associates in Florida — were Sullivan's three strongest rep firms at Loewe.
Hitachi also continues to use A/V distributors to service the custom installation channels, Sullivan said.
“A distributor really works with the custom installation accounts that don't have showrooms,” he said. “One of the biggest problems that a manufacturer has is figuring out how to handle the custom install business because there is no way to forecast it. Some of these businesses are here today and gone tomorrow. Other than the well-established custom installation accounts, a lot of installers don't perform in the way that a conventional retail account would, and often don't know what their needs are going to be several months down the road.”
Sullivan said the reps and distributors Hitachi has selected fulfill a major need for both the manufacturer and the smaller dealer accounts.