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Segmentation Key In Video Offerings

Sony used its annual spring dealer show here to unveil the first HiScan digital television monitors with built-in Memory Stick slots and Digital Visual Interface (DVI) connectors.

Highlights of other new video products included 32W-inch and 42W-inch plasma display panels with built-in NTSC tuners, four miniDV format digital camcorders, including three with megapixel still image capability (see p. 28), and an expanded lineup of DVD video players, including models in the highly-styled Psyc and Style3 series.

Also shown, for demonstration purposes only, was a next-generation digital TV set-top receiver/decoder with off-air ATSC, NTSC and satellite-based DirecTV tuning. Although specifications have not been finalized, the unit is expected to ship in the fall and is slated to include a DVI digital interface with HDCP copy protection, as well as RGB via 15-pin D-sub and HD component video broadband analog connections.

During the event’s opening remarks, Ron Boire, Sony Consumer Sales Company president, announced “there is a change in the wind” for the way manufacturers and retailers conduct business brought on by the growing trend of the “digitally networked world.” This transition to digital technology, he said, is pressuring manufacturers to deliver products that are truly differentiated, as new companies enter the market with little or no regulatory assistance placing a dramatic impact on some established categories.

As a result, Sony has adopted “a new approach to asset management” called “Sony Solutions” designed to offer retailers new opportunities to maximize their efforts. The program includes a range of value-added options from special financing programs to Web-based order processing.

The goal, Boire said, is to offer consumers “not one product solution, but a variety of solutions meeting practically every lifestyle need.”

Various lines in personal, portable and DVD electronics have been configured to appeal to groups including the older affluents, early adopters, Gen-Y, young professionals, families, empty nesters, SoHo professionals, etc.

In some cases — such as Sony’s Xplod line of mobile electronics — Sony Solutions was already underway, Boire said. In DVD players, for example, the company introduced the Style3 series of ergonomically designed players that can be placed in any of three positions — flat, wall hanging or vertical.

In television, Sony unveiled it fourth generation Hi-Scan DTV monitors, with step-up models — four projection and three direct view CRT — offering built-in Memory Stick drives that will read and display JPEG format still images on screen. In total, the company announced 15 DTV monitors, seven of which are rear-projection models.

The Memory Stick TVs correspond to four new miniDV camcorders, ranging from $800-$1,600, all of which include Memory Stick capability for still image capture, and three 2-megapixel-plus CyberShot digital still cameras with Memory Stick (ranging in price from $220-$400).

In total, Sony announced 13 Hi-Scan DTV monitors, eight of which feature widescreen 16:9 aspect ratios. This encompasses all seven rear-projection models and a new 34W-inch direct view model ($3,000) which this fall will join the currently available 34W-inch Hi-Scan monitor already in the line.

Rear projection sets feature the 51W-inch, 57W-inch and 65W-inch screen sizes., all offer DVI, and a new HD Detailer wideband video amplifier. Three models in the entry WS500 series ship in October at (51W) $2,700, (57W) $3,200 and (65) $3,700. Two setup series — the WV600 and WV700 — each include the 57W and 65W sizes. The WV600 models ($3,700 and $4,200 respectively) add a more flexible version of Sony’s Digital Reality Creation upconversion circuitry called Multifunction V1, HD MicroFocus CRT, Memory Stick and a new floating screen design with metallic silver wraparound speaker base.