By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Hitachi revealed a new marketing strategy for 2004/05, focusing on the company's core technologies in plasma, direct-view LCD and rear-projection CRT and LCD systems, to maintain its ranking as a top five HDTV brand in the United States.
Central to that goal was the development of a new "CineForm" design series, which carries the same industrial look through step-up lines of direct view LCD TV, plasma and three-chip LCD-based rear-projection HDTV sets.
All CineForm sets will offer by the end of the year fully integrated/CableCARD-compatibility. Throughout its lines, Hitachi is transitioning from the current three fully integrated HDTV sets to 21 fully integrated models with digital CableCARD compatibility.
CineForm sets will maintain a virtually identical horizontal and vertical look between models and categories when viewed straight on. CineForm rear-projection LCD TV sets were given a height reduction through the development of a new dual-focus, two-stage light engine.
The design improves picture performance while at the same time allowing Hitachi to shave the vertical dimension from below the screen. This makes the rear-projection set look like Hitachi's Ultravision plasma panels from most regular viewing angles.
Leo Delaney, Hitachi Home Electronics marketing VP, said at a press briefing, here, that he expects the light engine to help Hitachi gain significant market share in the microdisplay rear-projection category this year.
"We feel that all consumers, if price were no object, would want a plasma," Delaney said. "But if that is beyond their price limit, we felt that an alternative which offered the same form factor at least from the front-on point of view, in a more reasonable price range, would be an attractive product."
Delaney said Hitachi concentrated on developing a system that would truly rival the look of having a flat-panel television, at roughly half the price.
Hitachi's marketing plan will focus particularly on women, who tend to be drawn to the clean, trim look of plasma TVs.
Hitachi plans to advertise its CineForm products starting in September with national cable TV spots, in print advertising focused primarily on enthusiast and shelter publications, and via its redesigned Web site. The Web site will provide extensive feature explanations and specs to help shoppers in their pre-purchase research.
Hitachi's patented VirtualHD 1,080p upconversion video processing circuitry is carried throughout its television lines
In all, Hitachi will offer 11 Ultravision CineForm models ranging in screen size from 32W- to 70W-inches. This includes Hitachi's first direct-view LCD TV — a 32W-inch set — two 42W-inch plasma displays, two 50W-inch LCD rear-projection sets, two 55W-inch plasma displays, two 60W-inch LCD rear-projection sets and two 70W-inch LCD rear-projection sets.
Hitachi will carry 12 models of microdisplay three-chip LCD rear-projection sets, six of which are in the CineForm design series. All will have fully integrated ATSC tuning and digital CableCARD capability.
CineForm LCD projection models will be split between the Ultravision Series, which offers open distribution, and the Ultravision Director's Series, which targets qualified A/V specialty stores. All CineForm models feature the new two-stage light engine design, integrated ATSC tuners and, CableCARD digital cable compatibility.
Ultravision VS810 Series CineForm rear-projection LCD TVs will include two HDMI/HDCP inputs, and an illuminated roll-and-click remote for more intuitive feature use. Screen sizes include 50W-inches ($3,999.99), 60W-inches ($4,699.99) and 70W-inches ($6,999.99). The 50W- and 60W-inch models ship in the third quarter, and the 70W-inch ships in the fourth quarter.
The Ultravision Director's Series (VX915) models add dual two-way IEEE-1394 interfaces with DTCP, high gloss cabinets with black trim, deep-black anti-reflective shield, and a learning A/V Net III remote. Screen sizes include 50W-inches ($4,699.99), 60W-inches ($5,499.99) and 70W-inches ($7,499.99). All models ship in the fourth quarter.
Other Hitachi microdisplay LCD models, which are not part of the CineForm Series, include the entry V710 line. This will encompass the 42W-inch ($2,799.99), 50W-inch ($3,299.99) and 60W-inch ($3,999.99) screen sizes.
The step-up V715 series adds a titanium silver finish in the 50W-inch ($3,299.99) and 60W-inch ($3,999.99) screen sizes. Models in both the V710 and V715 series ship in the third quarter.
In flat panel TV, Hitachi announced its first direct-view LCD TV in a 32W-inch screen size as part of the CineForm Series. The unit —which offers 768p HDTV resolution, ATSC tuning, CableCARD capability, two IEEE-1394 inputs and two HDMI inputs — will ship in the fourth quarter at a price to be determined.
Hitachi's line also includes five new HD-level plasma displays, four of which are part of the CineForm Series and include integrated ATSC tuning and digital CableCARD capability.
In plasma panels, Hitachi will offer the Ultravison HDT51 series with a new 55W-inch screen size ($9,999) and a 42W-inch ($5,999) model. Both ship in the third quarter and will feature CineForm cosmetics, dual HDMI and IEEE-1394 inputs, and the company's new Quick Start seamless HDTV and NTSC tuner technology that reduces user confusion in selecting programs between DTV and NTSC signal sources.
In the Ultravisoin HDX61 Director's Series, Hitachi will carry 55W-inch ($10,999) and 42W-inch ($6,999) models. Both add an enhanced industrial design with a high gloss, black trim, and a high-contrast deep back shield, Hitachi's simple remote and a two-year warranty.
The company will ship in the second quarter a non-CineForm enhanced definition 42W-inch plasma monitor with NTSC tuning and DVI-HDCP input at a $4,2999 suggested retail.
Also outside of the CineForm Series are Hitachi's previously announced CRT-based rear-projection HDTV sets and monitors, which will all use the company's proprietary CRT guns that use Hitachi-made optics. The company will carry eight CRT-based rear-projection TVs, including five with integrated ATSC tuning and digital CableCARD capability.
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