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Notes From CEATEC JAPAN 2007

As I finish packing and prepare to take the long flight back to New York, here are some thoughts I had about my week visiting Japan and attending the CEATEC show in nearby Chiba, Japan.

This year’s show was not filled with revolutionary new technology, more evolutionary. Yes, reporters who cover this business can be jaded. The Hitachi LCD prototype with new backlight technology was impressive, as was the Sony OLED TV and Sharp’s 52-inch LCD prototype. Thin is definitely in, and we should see more developments like this at International CES and during 2008.

The major Japanese CE players who displayed their wares here this week were all looking for a technological edge to differentiate themselves from second- and third-tier suppliers so they can charge a premium for their products. It is a strategy that Pioneer hopes succeeds with its Kuro plasma TV line, which has just begun shipping here and in the U.S.

Panasonic is emphasizing its brand with its sponsorship of next year’s Summer Olympics in Beijing. While the manufacturer did not reveal the cost of the worldwide marketing and advertising campaign it should be massive. During a visit to a major Panasonic recycling center here for TVs and major appliances, the company is emphasizing the recycling of its products, under a program mandated by the government here.

“Green” is a worldwide phenomenon and it is fully embraced by Panasonic and CE makers in this country. Sony recently unveiled a recycling plan in the U.S. Consumer groups and Congress will probably put much pressure to bear on the CE industry as the environment becomes more and more of a concern – and the 2009 analog TV cutoff looms with more CRTs being thrown away.

Top-tier CE companies will probably use “Green” as a marketing tool to show they are good corporate citizens, are not being forced under law to recycle, while trying to put the message across that they produced top quality technology products. More on Panasonic’s recycling initiatives in Japan will appear here in the coming days and week.

That’s another way to differentiate them from the rest of the pack. Whether it will mean better market share and profits remains to be seen.