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Toshiba Eyes Marketing Transformation

Carlsbad, Calif. – Toshiba will be better positioned to serve its dealers as it continues a transformation process from an aging industrial power to a “marketing company,” Toru “Ike” Uchiike, president of Toshiba America Consumer Products (TACP), told the press at a company dealer meeting here.

Part of the transformation recently led to the creation of a new business unit, called the Digital Media Working Research Co., which will be focused on bringing digital convergence technologies to market.

Meanwhile, Toshiba is gearing up to be more responsive to customer needs, Uchiike said. “We must anticipate customer needs and deliver great products with the highest level of customer satisfaction,” he stated.

Toshiba will continue to make strategic partnerships with other companies to ensure a presence in all of the most compelling new technologies, he added. “We are a company that works well with others.”

Uchiike pointed to a recent cooperative effort with SanDisk to participate in the SD Flash media format. The tiny memory card – which is also used by Panasonic – will be found in Toshiba’s digital cameras currently handled by its West Coast-based computer division and in a new digital music player that TACP will distribute by the end of the year.

However, he indicated that Toshiba has much bigger plans for the SD format, including its use in future set-top boxes for digitally networked homes.

The TACP president pointed out that his company had participated in the development of networking protocols such as the Home Audio/Video Interface (HAVi), which will be used to control products that are interconnected by IEEE 1394 digital cables. Toshiba, he said, also helped to develop the next version of Bluetooth, which will perform similar functions to HAVi, in networks that use wireless RF connections.

In briefly listing his vision of the digital home entertainment future, Uchiike said Toshiba is committed to a TV-centric approach. In a Toshiba-based home entertainment network, “the display is not a passive component. Instead it will have more power than a PC and will function as the nexus for entertainment, communication.”

As for other upcoming products, he noted that Toshiba and Microsoft are co-developing high-resolution LCD-based flat panel displays for use in portable electronics. “This will help grow the market for electronic publishing,” he said.

Toshiba, he added, also helped to develop the “Emotion Engine,” which was defined as a high-performance processor for video entertainment.

To underscore Toshiba’s expanding role in portable LCD technologies, TACP introduced its first portable LCD DVD player.

A larger version of flat-screen technology – called a surface-conduction electron emitter display (SED) – is being co-developed with Canon and “is still two or three years away,” he said. The design is said to outperform plasma for brightness and contrast levels, cost to manufacturers and power consumption. Uchiike said SED technology requires only one-fifth the power of plasma.