Jeff Barney Outlines Toshiba's IT/TV Integration Plan



With Toshiba’s IT and consumer electronics divisions now under one roof, the company is moving ahead to develop a fully integrated product offering that encompasses the two categories.

Jeff Barney, VP and GM of Toshiba’s digital products division, who now heads the combined unit, told TWICE in an interview just prior to International CES that the company will take advantage of these newly created synergies on several fronts. This will include introducing certain PC products to its TV retail customer base, adding computing power to its televisions, and deepening its TV product assortment with its established retailers.

On the IT side this year Toshiba will introduce its first tablet PC and enter the all-in-one (AIO) computer market.

The merger of the two divisions was announced last May and the process of merging them began on July 1 when Toshiba’s consumer electronics arm, Toshiba America Consumer Products, officially combined with the company’s IT segment, Toshiba America Information Systems.

This move was essentially completed by October, but the larger and more complicated project of creating a unified retail product presentation is now underway, Barney said.

The culmination of these machinations will be to deliver a fully integrated television and computing experience where the end user will be able to move content between devices.

However, Barney said Toshiba is committed to its established retailers.

“The goal for 2011 is to grow the TV business. We will not bring on new [retail] partners, but go deeper with who we have,” Barney said, adding Toshiba does not want to endanger its relationship with its customers by rapidly expanding and losing the ability to execute well and remain on intimate terms with the dealers.

The goal is to build up sales on the TV side to the same level as the PC business. Currently, Toshiba’s IT segment sales are about three times larger than what televisions deliver, Barney said.

Toshiba’s IT infrastructure, including marketing and public relations are more mature, Barney said, and this strength will be leveraged to help boost the company’s TV presence.

However, the company does not intend to stop there. In addition to deepening its retail TV offering, the company plans to make its just-announced AIO computer available for specialty retailer and custominstallation dealers.

“Putting the two together makes a lot of sense,” he said, and this is part of the company’s plan to eventually offer a fully integrated product set that will include computers, tablet PCs and televisions.

The AIOs will ship sometime in 2011 and are intended to replace the PC tower as a home’s primary computer. Toshiba entered the AIO market in Japan about a year ago, Barney said.

Tying everything together will be the company’s tablet PC. While tablets are initially being viewed as a consumer consumption device, its long-term prospects are huge, Barney said.

“We believe the tablet design is as important to us as the clamshell laptop was 25 years ago,” he said.

Barney said the tablet market has the potential to hit 20 million in 2011 and double again just a few years later.

Toshiba’s first tablet is the lead device of what will be a family of products that will include other screen sizes and usage models. The initial offering has a 10.1-inch display an Nvidia processor and is based on the Android operating system. It will be priced similarly to the iPad.

The operating system is extremely important, Barney said, as Toshiba sees Android as the backbone of its future integrated home system.

“The Android OS is the core. People are already familiar with it and there are apps available,” he said.

Toshiba is now working on cross-platform delivery software so content can be easily shared between its TVs, tablets and computers.

The television will not be left out of this revolution as Toshiba sees it evolving from a simple Internet-connected device to having built-in computing capability with hard drives and a processor.

“We are committed to bringing computing power to the TV,” Barney said.

This transition will not take place until Toshiba can deliver such a product that has the same performance characteristics as a conventional TV. In addition, the economic model has to be correct and the consumer must be ready to accept a truly smart TV.

“This [development] cannot hurt the TV experience as people now know it,” he said, adding most people would not put up with a computer-like experience with their TV.


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