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Toshiba Continues To Build Digital Bridges

LAS VEGAS -Toshiba’s continuing advances in digital-entertainment technology development will be underscored at this week’s CES as the company seeks to bridge its contributions in the development of DVD technology with digital television, Internet-delivered music file devices, and numerous options for networking those products together in the home.

Toshiba’s theme for the show is dubbed “AV-C5,” which stands for the merger of digital Audio/Video products from five key segments: Computer, Cellular, Camera, Card and Content.

Tipping its hand to forthcoming home-network concepts, the company is showing systems linked wirelessly, using the Bluetooth communications protocol Toshiba is helping to develop. It will also stress new applications for the Panasonic/ Toshiba-endorsed flash memory system, called SD Memory Card.

“A major portion of our booth is dedicated to converging digital products,” said Craig Eggers, Toshiba’s new digital products management director. “You’ll see a lot of future-forward technology with the focus around the interface of computing and traditional audio/video formats.”

Among the offerings will be a number of products slated for introduction this year, including Toshiba’s second ultra-compact MP3 player, a new portable DVD player with an 8-inch LCD screen, and a series of DVD home players.

DVD introductions will include three models that are both DVD-Audio and progressive-scan video capable. A total of five players in the lineup will have progressive-scan output capability.

Eggers said he is equally bullish about the prospects for DVD-Audio: “We think that eventually DVD-Audio is going to take off, but initially it will require some demonstration to get the consumer behind it, and that’s the job of the retailer.”

Prior to the show, Toshiba was anticipating an 8.5 million to 9 million-unit year for the U.S. DVD-video player category. Eggers forecasts “a conservative” 11.5 million year in 2001.

Toshiba’s combination progressive-scan video/DVD-Audio players include the SD4700, which will carry a $399 suggested retail when it ships in May; the Cinema Series SD5700 ($449, June), which has HDCD compatibility; and the current SD9200, which adds a high-mass copper-plated chassis, and “3-d” digital noise reduction ($1,599).

Other models include two portable players: the SDP1000 progressive-scan portable DVD player, which features a 5.8-inch widescreen LCD monitor; and the SDP1500 portable DVD player with an 8-inch widescreen LCD monitor.

Toshiba continues to make non-progressive-scan models, including the entry SD2700 ($299 suggested retail price) and the NUON-enhanced SD2300 ($399), which will not play DVD-Audio discs but does include new 24-bit/192kHz audio digital-to-analog converters used in DVD-Audio systems. Eggers said this will “produce more oversampling of the signal to produce a warmer sound.”

Toshiba will reserve the introduction of the bulk of its next-generation digital television products for later in the year, but the company is showing its first 50W-inch widescreen plasma display panel.

The HDTV monitor will carry Toshiba’s “FST Pure” designation, which previously included only flat-screen direct-view televisions.

The panel has 1,366 x 768-pixel resolution and will display the 720p HDTV format in native-scan resolution. Other features include a 3000:1 contrast ratio, 4-inch cabinet depth and seven-language onscreen display.

Scott Ramirez, Toshiba TV marketing assistant VP, said the new panel will carry a $19,999 retail when it starts shipping by the end of the second quarter and will be used to make a statement for Toshiba’s flat-screen direct-view direction.

Also being unveiled is a pair of entry analog FST-Pure flat-screen direct-view televisions. The 20- and 24-inch sets each offer 4:3 configured screens and are slated to ship this month at $349 and $449, respectively.