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LG Says Networks Key To Firm’s Future

Looking for market share gains in its multimedia, IT, appliance and mobile phone businesses, LG Electronics is moving to mold itself a new upscale image using digital innovation and networking across its broad product range.

That was the pronouncement of Woo Hyun Paik, LG Electronics’ president and chief technology officer, who recently met here with journalists touring the company’s plasma TV, mobile phone and major appliance operations.

Paik said LG is moving aggressively to bring down the cost of plasma and LCD displays, while at the same time developing mobile handsets to take advantage of newly arriving standards and applications.

At the same time, the company is developing products that link together through the Internet, mobile phones or whole-home networks to advance ease-of-use and functionality benefits to consumers.

The company is even applying its technical expertise to the digitization of major appliances, to offer remote operation through cell phones and Internet commands.

In addition to innovation, the company hopes to win the U.S. and world markets by hanging its hat on an all-under-one-roof strategy for electronics and appliance dealers.

The following is an edited interview with the chief technology officer:

TWICE: How is LG progressing in its efforts to clarify its brand image?

Woo Hyun Paik: LG is not well-recognized in the U.S. yet, but that is changing. At this point, more and more people are coming to know the LG brand through mobile phones.

LG originally stood for Lucky GoldStar. LG Electronics used to be known as GoldStar Electronics in Korea and used to use the GoldStar brand on our products everywhere. Even in Korea. [The electronics company] started 50 years ago with GoldStar tube radios. Seven years ago, we changed the name from GoldStar to LG, because, in part, we felt LG had a more modern feeling.

As you proceed to re-establish your company under the new LG brand, how do you plan to compete with companies like Sony and Samsung in the future?

We are trying to have a better orchestrated marketing effort. That is why we have established a new organization in the U.S. We used to have different companies [handling various product categories] and now we have brought everything together under one roof, under Michael Ahn. We will be much more aggressive than in the past.

The U.S. market is not an easy market. We are trying to make people aware of LG the best that we can.

Sony is quite proud of its reputation as a product innovator and Samsung is positioning itself as a technological leader. What do you want consumers to think about when they consider LG?

I want people to think about [the range] of new innovative digital products we produce. Sony makes a nice TV but they don’t make refrigerators, and they don’t really have a brand in handsets. LG is very strong in traditional electronics sales, and we have the ability to combine all of these different digital electronics areas through home networks.

We believe we are one of the best companies at delivering [a full range] of new innovative digital products from handsets to TVs to washing machines.

Our goal is to bring higher-end products that are easy to use at the best value to consumers.

How are LCD and plasma technologies doing today?

LCD TVs are now starting to compete with plasma display panels (PDPs) … I think plasma has a bright future ahead. In larger screen sizes, plasma is going to get better everyday, and we are working aggressively to bring down the cost. We believe that picture-tube-based TVs will disappear, being replaced by either plasma or LCD type displays.

How do you view the next-generation optical disc technologies on the horizon?

We are supporting the Blu-ray Disc [BD] format, but we are watching very closely the HD-DVD side as well. Fundamentally, BD has more capacity, so if you want to record live TV, that presents an advantage. Also, BD has more support from consumer electronics manufacturers.

Ultimately, it depends on what format Hollywood is going to support for their titles. We are watching the situation, but it is going to take some time, I believe, before [high definition optical disc recording] really evolves.

We have some time, because if properly mastered, [NTSC] color DVD looks very good already on an HDTV set. Our current HDTV’s use what we call an XD Engine, which offers a very powerful video processing system that really sharpens the picture [of NTSC signal sources].

At CES, LG announced plans to market an HD Blu-ray Disc recorder by the end of this year? Is that still on schedule?

We are working to have that out around the end of this year or sometime next year, but initial products will appeal primarily to early adopters.