Continuing to push the upmarket evolution of its brand, Sharp staged a dealer show here featuring a broad range of products and new technologies, in an unusual unification of both the company's CE and IT sales divisions.
The combined showcase was presented in part to assist the many dealers that carry products from both sales groups.
Sharp CE group senior VP Rick Calacci added that the presentation demonstrated a step toward the near future when the company will be marketing A/V and SO/HO devices that can be linked together through home networks.
Sharp is one of the few broadly distributed consumer electronics companies that have both product groups reporting to one U.S. president — Toshiaki Urushisako. This year, the U.S. sales operation celebrates its 40th anniversary, while the parent company in Japan celebrates its 90th anniversary.
The highlight of new SO/HO offerings included a pair of multifunction "communications centers" combing plain paper fax machines and digital answering devices with cordless 2.4gHz remote handsets and separate charging cradles. One model offers a single cordless handset while the second offers up to four cordless handsets. The use of separate charging cradles allows the phones to be placed in multiple rooms without the need of multiple phone jacks.
In consumer electronics products, Sharp unveiled two new series of Aquos LCD TVs, featuring new styling cosmetics, and speaker/sound enhancements. The screens are also produced using Sharp's new Advanced Super View technology that boosts contrast and color performance.
Both series offer SKUs in the same three 4:3 screen sizes and at the same suggested retail prices — 13-inch ($1,195), 15-inch ($1,499.95) and 20-inch ($2,299.95).
Models in the new "E-series" feature a sleek minimalist style with speakers mounted underneath the screen instead of along the sides. The reconfiguration enables a narrower body depth than previous Aquos models. The 13-inch models and the 15-inch models will ship in September. The 20-inch models are shipping now. All are available in white, black and silver.
The new Aquos C-series offers a different contemporary design with bottom-mounted speakers, including a mini subwoofer. All sizes are offered in silver cabinets. The 13- and 15-inch models ship in December, the 20-inch ships in November.
Additionally, Sharp unveiled its second 16:9 LCD screen size – 22W-inch – to join the previously announced 30W-inch model. The new LC22SV2U offers WVGA (854x480) resolution, and uses Advanced Super View technology to produce a 500:1 contrast ratio. It ships in September at $3,499.95 suggested retail.
With the additions, Sharp now offers 30 SKUs of Aquos LCD TVs.
Also unveiled was a new ultra-compact DLP front projector (DT-200), which Sharp is calling "Theago," short for "personal home theater projector." The unit features a new dual-mode .55-inch Texas Instruments DMD chip with 1,200:1 contrast ratio and 600 ANSI lumens of brightness. The projector will deliver either 4:3 or 16:9 images, in 800x600 resolution for 4:3 and 800x480p for widescreen material.
The Theago ships in October at a $3,999.95 suggested retail price.
Sharp has developed a special Theago demonstration kiosk for retailers without home theater display rooms. The kiosk includes a black canvas enclosure to shield out ambient light and a short-throw lens, making it possible to demonstrate consumer-level front projectors in stores with out adequate home theater showrooms. Sharp also includes its new SD-AT50 1-bit home theater in a box system and mini surround speakers to complete the home theater experience.
"We are going to position Theago theaters on retail floors, with all of the POP materials around it, to give the big picture experience to consumers," said Michael Amkreutz, Sharp display devices director.
The company will make the Theago projector available to consumers with various option packages. They include the projector with either a tabletop stand or ceiling mount bracket and a screen — either a 70-inch 4:3, or 80-inch 16:9, at $4,499.95, or a 100-inch 4:3 or 92-inch 16:9 at $4,799.95. Sharp will bundle the SD-AT50 1-bit home theater audio system with the projector for $5,499.95.
For larger spaces, Sharp also announced a second DLP front projector (XV-Z90U) in the SharpVision specialty retail line based on the same .55-inch dual-mode DMD chip. The unit incorporates a 1.2x zoom long-throw lens for larger rooms. It will ship in October at $3,999.95.
New home audio introductions featuring Sharp's 1-bit digital amplifier technology included the SD-AT50 home- theater in a-box ($799.95) that includes an A/V receiver, progressive-scan DVD player, 50-watt-per channel output, down-firing 6.5-inch subwoofer and satellite speakers. It will ship in October.
Other new 1-bit product introductions included the SD-EX111 personal audio system which ships in September at a $499.95 suggested retail price. The package omits speakers, but includes large five-way binding posts, and double the sampling rate (5.6 MHz) of other 1-bit products.
The SD-EX100 ($499.95) is a similar unit that is now shipping with speakers, but using a lower sampling rate (2.8MHz).
In video, the company unveiled its first 4.2 megapixel digital still camera incorporating Sharp's Continuous Grain (CG) Silicon LCD panel technology. Model VE-CG40U, features a 1.5-inch CG Silicon screen delivering ultra-sharp images and onscreen menus, while requiring less power to operate. Other features include 3x optical and 3x digital zoom lenses, USB interface, and 16MB SD memory card.
The VE-CG40U ships in September at $599.95. Sharp is now shipping a similarly configured VE-CG30U with a conventional LCD screen and 3.3 megapixel CCD at $499.95.
New to Sharp's Viewcam camcorder line is the VL-MC500U, which is billed as the first model in the line with megapixel still image capture capability. The miniDV camcorder ships with an 8MB Multimedia card, a 270-degree rotating lens with 10x optical/300x digital zoom and a pop-up flash. It ships in September at a $999.95 suggested retail price.
Sharp also announced its first progressive scan DVD player using Faroudja DCDi deinterlacing technology. Model DV-S25U is shipping now at a $229 suggested retail price.
In appliances, Sharp unveiled three air purifiers based on Sharp's Plasmacluster ion technology. The system sends negatively charged ions out into the room to seek out and neutralize ions carrying orders and impurities. The models – designed for varying room sizes – ship in December at suggested retails of $329.95, $439.95 and $649.95, respectively.