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Polaroid Plans Further Diversification

Minnetonka, Minn. – Polaroid’s consumer electronics division is continuing its diversification drive with a planned entry into portable media players (PMPs), video-capable MP3 players and portable navigation devices (PNDs) following its entry last fall into GPS-equipped portable DVD players, said marketing VP Cheryl Mau.

The division also plans its first networked digital media player (DMP) and digital media adapter (DMA).

The brand already appears on flat-screen TVs, portable DVD players, home DVD players and recorders, digital cameras and digital picture frames.

In outlining its new MP3 and PMP strategy, the company said two of its planned digital A/V portables will feature Wi-Fi to enable Zune-like ad hoc wireless sharing among Polaroid devices and downloading photos, music and video wirelessly from pre-selected content stores as simply as possible through cursor movements.

The company hasn’t announced the preferred content partners whose brands would reside on the devices for one-click access. The rules for ad hoc sharing will be determined by the content partners, Polaroid added.

Using analysts’ definition of PMPs as offering minimum screen sizes of 3.5 inchesm, compared with video-enabled MP3 players, Polaroid plans two video-enabled MP3 players and one PMP.

The PMP and one video-enabled MP3 player will feature 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and hard disk drives, with the PMP available in 40GB and 80GB versions. These two models and a flash-memory-based MP3/video player store digital images, play protected Windows Media Video (WMV) and Windows Media Audio (WMA) files, and play multiple variations of unprotected MPEG-4. Content can be side-loaded to all three from a connected PC, but only the two HDD models will offer direct downloads via Wi-Fi from authorized sites.

The first A/V portable to hit the market is the flash-based unit at less than an everyday $100. It’s due at the end of March with 2.2-inch color screen, 512MB embedded flash memory and a microSD card slot.

Larger screens, Wi-Fi, and headset-stereo Bluetooth will appear on the two HDD models. They’re due sometime in the second quarter. One model features a 2.8-inch LCD screen, 30GB HDD and online content-store access via a five-key user interface.

The second HDD model, a full-fledged PMP with 4.3-inch screen, will feature a touch screen and be available in 40GB and 80GB versions. It also adds a Web browser for handheld Web access via a Wi-Fi network.

The brand’s first three PNDs were shown at International CES. Details were unavailable.

Their launch follows the fall 2006 launch of the company’s first GPS device, a GPS-equipped handheld DVD player with 5.6-inch touch screen plus hard buttons, DVD/CD playback, suction-cup mounting, rechargeable battery and built-in FM transmitter to send audio to a car stereo system.

For the home, Polaroid plans a Wi-Fi-connected DMP and companion DMA. The DEC 100 is the DMA, which plugs into a TV to wirelessly stream audio, video and images from a networked PC, media server, or HDD-equipped DEC1000 DMP. The DMP can also be connected directly to a TV or audio systems to serve as the local content source. Additional details, including price and availability, were unavailable.

Polaroid was acquired in 2005 by Petters Group Wordwide, then a Polaroid licensee, while Polaroid was in Chapter 11. The deal made Polaroid a wholly-owned subsidiary of Petters, which had been licensing the Polaroid brand since 2003 for use in consumer electronics such as DVD players and televisions. Petters had also partnered with World Wide Licenses in 2004 to distribute Polaroid-branded digital still cameras in North America. The acquisition gave Petters access to more Polaroid sales channels, its intellectual property and brand name.

Polaroid’ acquired businesses included instant cameras and instant film, photographic hardware accessories for the instant photography market, sunglasses, and secure identification systems for commercial applications.

Privately held Petters Group Worldwide invests in more than 60 companies and actively manages more than 20 of them. Its companies operate in such industries as media and marketing, hospitality, aviation, capital management, emerging technologies, and merchandising solutions.