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Pioneer Using Hard-Drives With DVD-Recorders, Car Navigation

Pioneer is integrating hard-drive technology into DVD-recorders and car navigation systems to maintain, if not accelerate, its global share in these markets.

DVD-recorders, navigation systems, and plasma displays were “the positive factors” responsible for boosting projected operating income and net income for the fiscal year ending March 2003, said Kaneo Ito, president of Tokyo-based Pioneer Corp.

Ito made the remarks during a meeting with TWICE recently, in which Pioneer North America president Kaz Yamamoto and Tom Haga, president of Pioneer Electronics USA’s Home Entertainment Division attended.

In late 2002, Pioneer launched its first two HD-equipped DVD-R/RW recorders in the Japan market and plans a summer launch of one model in the U.S. Also in 2002, the company began shipments in Japan of an HD-based navigation system that doubles as a music jukebox, but plans for U.S. availability haven’t been made.

Sales of the two DVD recorders exceeded projections, resulting in a 17,000-unit back-order at the end of November, Ito said. The company planned to ship 34,000 in December.

The DVP-77H and DVR-99H recorders incorporate 80GB and 120GB HDs, respectively, and record from TV onto the hard drive while simultaneously dubbing from the hard drive to a blank DVD disc.

A 24x HD-to-disc dubbing speed lets consumers record an hour of content to a disc in as little as 2.5 minutes, he said.

The two are priced at $1,129 and $1,370 ($1=124 yen). For the U.S. market, Pioneer will price an HD-equipped DVD-recorder at “well under $1,000,” a spokesperson later said.

In navigation, the company last May launched its first HD-equipped navigation system in Japan. The double-DIN device is 40x faster than CD and 4x faster than DVD-ROM is searching for a location, and it’s the first navigation system whose HD doubles as a music jukebox, Ito said.

The 60GB system not only displays maps, selects a route to a destination, and uses voice prompts to tell drivers when to turn, but it also displays a moving bird’s-eye or driver’s-eye illustration of the surrounding landscape to help drivers identify the intersection where they’ll turn.

By voice commands, drivers can operate the navigation system and select songs for playback. It sells for $2,475 ($1=124 yen).

“In-car A/V is picking up in the U.S.,” said Yamamoto, who contends that it’s “time for serious activity in navigation for us [in the U.S.]”

On other product topics, Ito said:

  • Pioneer will offer a dual-format DVD-RW/DVD+RW recorder “if the consumer wants,” but the company “currently doesn’t see the necessity.” Haga contended that “consumers are more concerned about compatibility with their current DVD players,” and a dual-format recorder will simply “goose up the price.”
  • Blue-Ray HD recorders are three to four years away from becoming a consumer product. He said Pioneer would wait for the amount of HD programming to increase before offering the recorders.