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Toshiba Re-assessing U.S. TV Plans

Another popular Japanese consumer television manufacturer is re-assessing its future involvement with the category in the U.S. market.

In a statement issued to TWICE Tuesday, Toshiba America Information Systems (TAIS) said it would not be introducing any new TV models for the U.S. at next week’s International CES, which for decades has been a huge showcase for the company’s TV business.

“Toshiba Corporation is currently evaluating the business model for the U.S. consumer TV market as part of the company’s measures to reform its Visual Products business worldwide,” the company said in a statement. “Toshiba will announce the details when the decision has been finalized in the next few months.”

Attempts to reach Scott Ramirez, marketing VP for the category, have been unsuccessful.

In recent years, Toshiba has become a big player in the TV rental business, but it has lost some retail positioning with former strongholds like Best Buy and the regional TV/appliance chains as consolidations and aggressive price promoting have taken their toll.

In 2010 the company went through a major restructuring, with the former Toshiba America Consumer Products (TACP) merging into Toshiba America Information Systems and relocating from Wayne, N.J. to Irvine, Calif.

If Toshiba should opt to leave the TV market in the U.S. it would be the close of another colorful chapter in consumer electronics history.

Toshiba was a significant player in the U.S. big-screen TV market for three decades, offering lines of rear projection TV and “Super Tube” direct view CRT TVs in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but like several other analog TV giants, it was slow to develop manufacturing operations for flat panel TVs as the nation began its transition to an all-digital broadcast system.

Instead of producing the core component – big screen LCD panels – the company chose to concentrate on its strengths as a developer of processors and image processing systems to produce enhanced picture quality on sourced screens.

Toshiba continues to develop small screen displays and supporting technologies for mobile solutions.

In related technologies, Toshiba was also a pioneer in the development of TV source devices, particularly optical disc video platforms. It was a leading contributor in the development of DVD, and formed a strategic relationship with Warner Bros. to have many of its patents adopted in the final spec.

It was less fortunate in its efforts to win approval for the HD DVD format it largely developed; ultimately losing millions after Warner Bros. joined other Hollywood studios in supporting Blu-ray Disc.

Ironically, the future of the next phase of the Blu-ray standard – Blu-ray Disc 4K – is expected to become clearer by the end of this year.

As for next week’s show: “The focus of our announcements at CES will be on new tablet and consumer storage offerings,” a spokesman for Toshiba told TWICE. “Additionally, we will be demonstrating technologies that highlight our vision for the Human Smart Community.”

Hopefully, Toshiba will be able to find a solution and will once again return to Las Vegas with innovative new display technologies it has customarily brought to CES this time of year. It’s hard to imagine where the industry would be today without Toshiba’s development direction and marketing promotions these many years.