Pioneer Provides Peek At Its Future

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Pioneer Electronics USA president/CEO T. Asano provided a review of the present and a peek at the future, discussing a proposed home networking system, called Digital Network Entertainment (DNE), at a recent press briefing in New York City.

During the breakfast meeting with the press, the second of its type since Asano became president in January 1998, he outlined the following:

  • Current business conditions for Pioneer and the industry.
  • The success it has had with DVD and plans for the format.
  • Internet sales policies.
  • And plans for individual product categories.

Asano reported that during fiscal year 2000, which began April 1, Pioneer's home electronics business was up 10% and car electronics was up 20%.

"Our sales are rising faster than the industry's," he pointed out. A hallmark of Pioneer's recent success has been its R&D effort, which Asano said "continues to lead the industry, with about 5.5% revenue being transferred back into product development."

While "all categories and new technologies are driving the business," Asano claimed that Pioneer has become the third largest supplier of DVD and that "our DVD has been viewed as the standard of the industry." The format "will continue to be the centerpiece of the home electronics category," he said, estimating that U.S. shipments should reach 3 million this year.

Pioneer's DVD product plans for the rest of this year and next include a three-disc DVD carousel changer, a portable DVD player, a 300 DVD/CD changer, DVD audio and DVD-RW for the consumer market -- the last three earmarked for 2000.

Concerning DVD-RW decks, Asano said they can record anywhere from one hour to five hours and that the blank media would have to be similar in price to CD-RW blanks.

However, the top subject of the briefing was DNE, which is scheduled to be previewed during Comdex this fall and CES during January. Asano described DNE as "our idea of a go-anywhere, use-anytime network of information and entertainment using an advanced user interface."

The major building blocks for DNE will be digital TV, plasma technology, set-top boxes, DVD audio and DVD-RW, using an IEEE 1394 connection, he said, adding that DNE should eventually have storage media that could include a "hard disk drive, flash memory or optical disks."

The proposed network, which may be available by 2002, might be centered on a "digital media organizer" featuring a video pad that could control A/V components, video games, MP3 devices and Internet access. Asano noted that wireless control of such a network would be desirable, and he added, "wireless should be a very hot technology in the next couple of years."

In the realm of home networking, a company's expertise in a specific technology skews how a network is designed, he explained: "Telecommunications companies think it should be phone-based; PCs think database; white-goods firms think appliances will be dominant; and security companies think security. We're the same. We are an audio/video company, so we think a network should be entertainment-based."

However, the Pioneer CEO bluntly added, "We can't develop everything on our own," and Pioneer is about to reach partnership agreements "with some wireless companies in the U.S. and Japan." The company is also looking at developing hard disk storage, on its own, or with either TiVo or Replay Network.

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