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Tosi: Uniden to Enter New Product Categories

Uniden will enter several new product categories and push Bluetooth and VoIP technology as a means to combat price erosion in the flat-lining cordless market, according to its new president/CEO, Richard Tosi.

Tosi, a former national sales manager with the company, was tapped to replace departing CEO Al Silverberg in July. He noted that the company was “debt free and cash positive” and would direct its investment in growing its business outside of its core cordless and communications categories, though he declined to discuss specifics.

“You’ll see things that you wouldn’t expect. It’s time for the brand to take its next step and for us to build more of a technology company,” he said, adding that the products would not be so far afield as to compromise the company’s current successes.

One new avenue is hardware for the peer-to-peer VoIP market, popularized by the free PC-based calling service Skype. Unlike residential VoIP services, which can use existing home phones and converters to send calls over the Internet to both VoIP and non-VoIP subscribers, peer-to-peer services can only connect two Internet users running the same service. Handsets for these services connect directly to a PC via USB.

Uniden has a long road map for VoIP products, Tosi said, and is currently placing Vonage and 8×8 VoIP phones on store shelves.

“Ultimately we see VoIP and landline co-existing on one device,” Tosi said.

The company will also stick with Bluetooth technology, rather than a dedicated hardware dock, as a means of merging landline and cellular calling. “We think the Bluetooth message is getting through to consumers that they can take their unused minutes” and use them with their regular cordless phone, Tosi said.

Despite its foray into new territory, Uniden is committed to the cordless market and in an era of shrinking sales, the company has managed to grow in both market share and profits, Tosi said, attributing the success to a good working relationship with Uniden’s retail partners.

“Digital multi-packs have been a pleasant surprise, and consumers seem to understand the benefits of 5.8GHz technology,” he noted.

Future improvements in home telephony won’t center on yet-another frequency change but on enhancing the functionality of the product, Tosi said. Don’t expect to sound the death knell for 900MHz in 2006, Tosi added, as the $5 price step between 900MHz and 2.4GHz analog continues to keep the lower frequency alive.

“Every year we ask our dealers if they still want 900MHz, and every year they buy them.”