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Panasonic Sees Strength In Unified Brand

10/13/2008 02:00:00 AM Eastern

The manufacturer that markets its products mostly under the Panasonic brand worldwide celebrated its 90th anniversary this month in an unusual way — by changing its name.

Matsushita Electric Industrial officially became Panasonic worldwide to leverage its digital network product strategy worldwide on Oct. 1. (See related story on p. 32.) The Matsushita name honored its iconic founder, Konosuke Matsushita.

That day during the CEATEC Show, here, Panasonic president Fumio Ohtsubo told journalists, "Starting from today, Panasonic will concentrate all of its employees' efforts into one name. That is Panasonic. Therefore their collective wisdom will be much easier [to cultivate] compared to the past. One brand, one corporate name will bring more merit to our corporate management."

Ohtsubo said the corporate name change reflects the company's unified brand positioning, which will eliminate the long-used National home appliance brand here and shift all electronics, appliances and component parts under the Panasonic flag. The action is the last step in a multiyear direction that has seen the elimination of such brands as Technics and Quasar to focus solely on Panasonic in North America and other global sectors.

"In the past, our total solution of daily life in the house used National as a white-goods brand and Panasonic as an A/V brand," Ohtsubo said. "Now we have one brand. Under one brand we can propose a total solution for our daily lives."

He pointed out that Panasonic's product development strategies going forward include the development of whole-home integrated solutions, in which A/V electronics and white goods, including air conditioning, refrigeration, lighting and even fuel-cell power generation, are integrated through easy-to-use interfaces in Viera displays.

The direction was reflected in a number of integrated system solutions that Panasonic demonstrated as future concepts on the CEATEC show floor, here. The booth was divided into three stages, featuring products timed to arrive within three years, those planned for release within three to five years and concepts proposed for five to 10 years out.

Products in the earliest window featured items that will be interconnected over a variety of networking pathways, from home powerline systems to wireless HD video-distribution networks. In the ultimate scenario, five to 10 years from today, the company showed massive display walls — called Life Walls — leveraging a gesture-reading graphical user interface. The system will read arm and hand motions to activate menu commands, send and receive communications and even help users take real-time music lessons without leaving the house.

In a "Jetsons"-like demonstration, one future concept vignette showed a video-conferencing music lesson between a cello instructor and a distant student engaging as if the two were in the same room. Using a full-sized video display wall, the instructor's image was life-sized, offering the student the ability to clearly read fret-board fingering and sheet music while hearing subtle nuances in musical intonations.

"There are many A/V makers with mainly A/V products, and some makers are producing home appliances, but for a total solution, Panasonic is the only company in the world that is proposing that kind of total solution," Ohtsubo said. He added that such integrated solutions will be introduced first in Japan in several years before rolling out to other countries of the world.

Going forward, he said, Panasonic is building its company on key pillars, including the innovation of useful products and technologies designed for digital networks, becoming a more ecologically responsible company that is removing CO2 emissions from the atmosphere and toxins from the waste stream, and developing device technologies useful for a wide range of applications.

As for reports of the apparent economic meltdown in the United States and its global impact on the fourth quarter, Ohtsubo acknowledged that recent news has not been good for the consumer electronics industry as whole, but he underscored that Panasonic will weather the storm by staying focused on its core mission.

"Whether the economy is bad or good, our mission is to design good, quality products," Ohtsubo said.