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Phones (?) At CEDIA Expo

In preparation for any major show in CE that highlights new products, members of our editorial staff will usually pop in my office when there is surprise introduction news by a supplier.In this case it was executive editor and our resident video expert Greg Tarr in early August in preparation for our coverage of CEDIA Expo. He came in and said, “Guess what Panasonic’s big introduction is at CEDIA Expo?” I gave up, and he deadpanned, “Phones.”

“Phones?” I exclaimed.

Of course, there were other typical audio/video products on display from Panasonic that he found out about later on, but when you think of CEDIA Expo and a major brand like Panasonic, you don’t think of phones … even though I have seen handsets displayed by distributors at the show in the past year or two.

This seems to be a typical example of a major CE player providing an alternative category – that is profitable – for CEDIA-type dealers to consider and install.

So when I went to the Panasonic booth in Atlanta earlier this month and saw the display, I caused a little trouble. I said to any Panasonic executive in front of the home automation and communications display, “Phone systems at CEDIA? Why?”

I was quickly introduced to William Birnie, marketing director of Panasonic’s communications solutions group, who explained that these systems have a home at the show and should be carried by custom installers.

“These are not only phone systems, for both residential and small-business use, but involve security solutions and home control functions,” Birnie said.

Panasonic unveiled the KX-DT300 series of business telephones that feature Bluetooth-enabled wireless headsets. The KX-TDA50G business communications system for small- to medium-size businesses supports a wide variety of phone types (analog, digital, IP). The system also supports SIP trunking, which enables customers to reduce connection and long-distance costs.  And what Panasonic said is the industry’s first Bluetooth-enabled telephone featuring cellular phonebook transfer was at the show. It is a two-line DECT system allows transfer of up to 600 phonebook entries at the press of a button; the KX-DT300 series is also compatible with Bluetooth-enabled headsets. For more information on Panasonic’s line, click here.

These types of phones can get custom installers and retailers with good installation expertise into another category, Birnie said.

Panasonic offers IP conference speaker phones, IP network cameras for security, and a wide variety of other related products for hotels and small businesses as well as upscale homes that custom installers usually serve.

In times like this, new, profitable categories in for atypical markets custom installers don’t normally serve are called opportunities. If you look closely enough, there are probably a few more technologies and markets which installers and retailers can enter.