By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
To help spread the gospel about its plasma display technology, Panasonic opened up its Plasma Concierge toll-free information service to holiday TV shoppers, and revealed that its models "are the first in the U.S. market to feature lead-free plasma display panels."
The toll-free Plasma Concierge program, which formerly had been restricted to Panasonic HD plasma owners looking for information and product support, is for a limited time accessible to prospective customers as well.
Panasonic said its Concierge "experts" are answering basic and technical questions to help plasma shoppers. When someone calls in, a Concierge expert will set up a consumer profile, taking into account factors including lifestyle, viewing habits and room design/dimensions to help select the best flat-panel option.
The Concierge program was launched in June to provide all Panasonic plasma owners with a range of privileges including live access to trained plasma TV consultants, who can resolve issues and provide advice on set-up, operation, troubleshooting, integration of the plasma TV with other home entertainment components, and other support-related issues.
Panasonic said its decision to open up the Concierge team to the public was influenced by a recent Consumer Electronics Association/Yahoo survey showing the average consumer spends 15 hours researching and comparing products online when looking to purchase a digital television.
Panasonic is offering its team to simplify the decision making process, while helping to influence shoppers to consider Panasonic plasma products.
The program will run through Dec. 31. Consumers can access the service by calling (888) 777-7134 Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET, and Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET.
Panasonic said consumers also can find tips and facts about flat panel television in its guide, What2Look4, at www.panasonic.com/plasmacentral.
Meanwhile, the company revealed that its new plasma display panels are manufactured without environmentally hazardous lead.
Plasma display panels are glass-sealed image display devices, equivalent to a cathode ray tube in a conventional television.
While removing lead from the parts list, Panasonic said it "made significant advances in enhancing the performance of the phosphors used to render colors on the screen."
In conventional manufacturing processes, lead oxide glass is used in the dielectric layer, electrodes, glass sealant and other structural elements. Lead oxide glass was valued for its ability to stabilize production yields and quality.
Using new production techniques, Panasonic has stabilized production yields without the use of lead oxide. This is said to eliminate all of the roughly 70 grams (0.15 pounds) of lead used in a 37-inch plasma panel.
"With this achievement, we believe that Panasonic plasma displays have outpaced our flat-panel TV competitors in an important area of environmental performance: the elimination of hazardous heavy metals," said David Thompson, Panasonic North America's director of environmental affairs
The removal of lead from the manufacturing process is expected to eliminate a total of about 300 metric tons of lead worldwide per year.
Meanwhile, Panasonic said its phosphor technology is estimated to deliver 60,000 hours of TV viewing — more than 25 years at seven hours per day — before reaching half brightness.
Phosphor improvements have also led to the virtual elimination of burn-in in Panasonic plasma TVs, the company said.
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