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Sony Unveils Plasma Trio As Fidler Returns

Sony Electronics used the recent Home Entertainment Expo here to introduce its new A/V marketing team and to announce three additions to its line of fully integrated digital cable-ready HDTV sets that are slated to ship this fall.

Mike Fidler, who most recently headed up promotion of the Blu-ray Disc format, was introduced at the event as Sony Electronics’ new Home Products Division senior VP. Under Fidler are Greg Gudorf, who adds the role of Home Products Division TV Group VP, and Philip Abram, Home Products Division Home A/V Group’s marketing VP. Victor Matsuda assumes Fidler’s role in promoting Blu-ray Disc.

Gudorf said he would add the responsibility of television product marketing to his current duties, overseeing Sony’s digital platforms group, which includes digital cable boxes. Gudorf said the combined role is ideal for the new trend to integrate digital cable-ready circuitry into Sony’s HDTV sets.

Fidler said Sony would introduce this fall digital cable-ready plasma HDTVs in 37W-inch ($5,500 suggested retail), 42W-inch ($7,000) and 50W-inch ($9,000) screen sizes. All three models will be part of the XS model series and will use a third-generation Wega Engine for image processing.

With the additional plasma sets, Sony said it would carry 35 models of HDTV products, including 19 fully integrated HDTV sets with slots for digital CableCARDs. The 37W-inch and 42W-inch plasma sets both feature 1024 by 1024 pixel resolution, while the 50W-inch set will feature 1366 by 768 pixel resolution.

Also announced at the show was a new step-up DVD Dream System (model DAV-LF1) DAV-LF1) with proprietary IR-based wireless speakers in brushed-aluminum and a base station featuring a floating-glass design that resembles the cosmetics of Sony’s flat-panel TVs. The system, which was said to be the first in the new “Platinum” series, will be available in September at $2,000.

Sony again showed its “LocationFree” portable broadband TVs, which were first unveiled at CES. The system will offer two models starting in the fall, including the LF-X5 ($1,000), which features a 7-inch LCD tablet and base station, and the LF-X1 ($1,500), which features a 12.1-inch LCD tablet screen and base station. The LF-X1 features 800 by 600 pixel resolutions, while the LF-X5 offers 800 by 480 pixel resolution.

Both include PCMCIA card slots, MemoryStick/CompactFlash compatibility and multi-format A/V input.

The system, which is designed to link to broadband Internet connections, is compatible with the 802.11a, 802.11g and 802.11b Wi-Fi standards for use in home networks and with public Wi-Fi hotspots and Ethernet ports.

Also announced was a pair of “Dual RW” multi-format (DVD-RW/-R/+RW/+R) DVD recorder combination products. The RDR-HX900 ($900, October) combines the optical disc recorder with a 160GB hard disc digital video recorder (DVR) The deck is said to allow users the widest selection of recording and viewing options.

The RDR-VX500 ($600, October) combines the optical disc recorder with a VCR. The deck allows bi-driectional dubbing from VCR to DVD recorder, to simplify the process of converting VHS tapes to DVD discs. It is also said to allow for DV/Digital8 camcorder tape transfers via a built-in i.LINK (IEEE-1394) DV connection.