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Philips Stressing CD-R, MP3, DVD In ’01 Lineup

NEW YORK — Philips will expand its selection of CD-recorders, CD-R shelf systems, MP3-equipped home and portable audio products, executive-style microsystems and DVD-equipped home theater packages in its 2001 lineup.

The line will also include two other industry firsts: a shelf system with built-in Internet radio and a headphone MP3-CD player that plays only 3-inch CDs.

The eXpanium EXP 401 headphone CD, said to be the smallest MP3-CD player announced to date, accepts only 3-inch discs to reduce size while still allowing for hours of compressed music to be played back from a single disc.

The portable is due in September at a retail price of somewhere less than $199. For the previously unveiled shelf system, intended to connect to a broadband modem via an Ethernet port, the company announced a $499 expected retail price and an August ship date.

In CD-recorders, Philips is expanding its component CD-R selection to five SKUs from three with the introduction of four models, including the company’s first and only model with 4x dubbing speed (at an everyday $499 with three-disc changer). That model and another three-disc model at a retail $449 are the company’s first CD-recorders with MP3-CD playback (not encoding). A 2x dual-deck will retail at $399, down from the previous line’s initial $449, and a single-well model will start the line at $299, down from its predecessor’s original $399, but matching its $299 closeout price.

Similarly, Philips is expanding its selection of CD-recorder-equipped shelf systems from one to four, two of which are the company’s first shelf systems offering both CD-recording and MP3-CD playback (at retails of $399 and $499). One of the new systems is promoted as the industry’s first microsystem with CD-recorder. All four models sport three-disc changers and 2x dubbing speed.

In 2000 lines, only Philips and Pioneer offered CD-recorder-equipped shelf systems.

In expanding its CD-recorder selection, Philips is positioning itself to take advantage of its upwardly revised projections for industrywide U.S. sales. Based on better-than-expected Q1 retail sellthrough, Philips expects factory-level component recorder sales to hit anywhere from minimum 700,000 in 2001 with the hope that a good economy will boost that to one million, up from last year’s 500,000. The company previously forecast 600,000 unit sales in 2001. NPD Intelect statistics show retail sales grew around 50 percent in Q1, said senior VP Andy Mintz.

The company’s CD-recorder unit share was 45 percent in 2000, he added.

In portable MP3-CD announcements, the company said it is expanding its selection of headphone MP3-CD portables from one to six, including the 3-inch-disc player. They will include the first headphone MP3-CD player announced to date to hit the $99-suggested-retail mark, Mintz said.

The top four headphone MP3-CD players — including the 3-inch-disc model — add playback of two other compressed audio formats: AAC and UDF. The multicodec models start at a retail of $129. A $179 large-display model displays album and track titles, not just album and track numbers.

Because 3-inch recordable audio discs are rare, Philips will support sales of the 3-inch player by producing 3-inch audio CD-R discs, whose tentative retail price is targeted between $1 and $1.99. Philips is studying production of 3-inch CD-RW discs, Mintz said.

In other announcements the company:

  • Added MP3 playback to three CD boomboxes for the first time at $99 without cassette deck to $129 for a model that will display album and track titles, not just album and track numbers.
  • Expanded its selection of executive-style microsystems to four from one with the launch of three new models, all with 3-disc changers, at a retail of $199, $299, and $399. The latter has CD-recorder; the two former feature MP3-CD playback.
  • Expanded its receiver-based home theater package selection to six models from two with the launch of five new packages, including the company’s first two with DVD-receivers at an retail of $399 and $449. Both feature Dolby Digital decoding and single-disc transport.
  • Another system is packaged with a separate five-disc DVD changer and Dolby Digital receiver at a suggested $599 and will complement a carryover model with separate single-disc DVD player.