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3M Entering Home LCD Projector Market

Business-to-business and institutional video-projector manufacturer 3M will market its first LCD front projector for the “emerging home theater market” in June using a case design created by legendary Italian design firm Pininfarina Extra.

The company recently brought top executives from both 3M and Pininfarina on a New York media tour to unveil the new contemporary Euro-style looks of two key LCD projector classes for 3M.

Ronald Scott, 3M Visual Systems Division marketing director, said his company is banking on the “attractiveness of the design, functionality of the design and price points of the product” to make an impact on home-theater purchasers, when the first model arrives later this year.

Pininfarina created two basic design styles — the S10 and the X series — for various projector models. The two styles will be roughly earmarked for either business-to-business or home-theater distribution, Scott said.

“The products talk,” said Paolo Pininfarina, Pininfarina Extra CEO, referencing the clean lines and unique look of the two styles. “While you could say one design is for the business market and the other is for homes, I prefer to say that each has its own personality.”

The X Series will be used in step-up Bravo LCD projectors for the business market, while the S10 series will be used for 3M’s first home-theater model — an EDTV-level LCD projector.

Scott said 3M is hoping that the look of the projectors will catch the eye of purchasers on the shelves of office supply, warehouse clubs, national CE chains and computer stores, where 3M will focus the launch efforts for its first home theater product — the S10.

Scott said 3M will be looking more for off-the-shelf business than custom installer sales with the first product.

To influence impulse buys, the home theater model, with bottom-mounted cooling vents, has a design that is “friendlier and more innovative. There is no other projector that is even similar to this,” Pininfarina said.

The X series style of the Bravo X50 ($3,000 suggested retail) business projector, which is available now, features a circular front-mounted vent that is designed to balance the circular lens opening next to it. The look is similar to a very large pair of binoculars. The X50 will have XGA (1,024-by-768 pixel) resolution.

The S10 home theater model will produce SVGA (800-by-600 pixel) resolution, with a native 16:9 aspect ratio.

Scott said the S10 (which was expected to see a retail of around $1,300) was designed using a cost and segmentation strategy.

“We are not so much interested in the high-end of the home theater market,” Scott said. “We want to match up our customer base and distribution strengths with a price point.”