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Panasonic Enacts ‘3D Value Chain’ Plan

Panasonic has initiated a new global growth strategy focusing on digital products centered on three core competency areas: Secure Digital (SD) flash memory storage, DVD-RAM recording and digital television display.

Speaking before a worldwide press conference here, Panasonic executives announced the new strategy as the “3D Value Chain,” and added that eventually products from each area will interconnect via networking solutions.

Panasonic intends to help revolutionize the “ubiquitous networked society” it sees developing in the near future, said Hirotoshi Furuyama, Panasonic overseas sales and marketing group general manager.

“The key to success in the ubiquitous networked world will be to offer products that are easy to use, easy to hook up and easy for consumers to understand,” Furuyama said. “Today, you will find that all of our new products have become smaller, lighter and thinner.”

Regarding the company’s strategy for SD card products, Yukio Hirose, Panasonic overseas sales and marketing group assistant manager, cited two key objectives: to develop strong SD card hardware solutions and to work to make the SD card “the de facto standard for memory card” products.

Panasonic reported significant market share gains for SD memory devices in the Japanese market. Panasonic said the ranks of the SD industry association has grown due to the ever-increasing storage capacity (the first 1GB SD card is due later this year), the capability of a secure content protection solution and improved data transfer rate speeds.

Highlighted new Panasonic SD products include the following:

The PV-GS70 is a DV camcorder that Panasonic called “the world’s smallest 3 CCD movie camera.” The unit is slated for an April delivery, and is said to be half the size of the 3 CCD digital camcorder the company sold two years ago. It uses miniDV cassettes for motion video and incorporates a SD card slot and reader to capture and store up to 1.23 megapixel digital still photos. Other features include a 10x optical/700x digital zoom lens with Leica Dicomar optics, 510 lines of video resolution and the addition of Windows NetMeeting software to turn the camcorder into a web camera.

The step-down PV-GS50 is a single CCD version that combines many of the same attributes as the PV-GS70 into a tiny package. The miniDV camcorder is slated to ship in March at a $699.95 suggested retail price.

In DVD-RAM camcorders, Panasonic is offering its next-generation VDR-M30, which records images in MPEG 2 format. The unit accepts 8cm DVD-RAM and DVD-R discs in a new round holder, and is compact and light, weighing 1.10 pounds. The rewritable DVD-RAM discs offer users the ability to perform non-linear editing inside the camcorder by randomly cutting and moving scenes from point to point on the disc. The process, which is more difficult with other recordable DVD formats, is one of the strengths Panasonic will promote in its effort to make DVD-RAM a “de facto DVD recording standard.” The DVD-RAM camcorder also includes a SD card slot for 640-by-480 JPEG still image capture.

Added to the company’s “e-wear” compact portable electronics line was a pair of SD multi-AV devices. The units combine a digital video recorder, a digital still camera, and a digital audio player with new SD-Jukebox software and a digital voice recorder. The AV30 will also record and playback TV programs and ships with a head set and remote for listening to digital music files on SD memory cards.

The players are roughly the size of a deck of playing cards. Models SV-AV20 ($299.95) and SV-AV30 ($399.95) feature a user-friendly interface and improved video resolution, and the SV-AV30 adds a docking station for recording and viewing footage on a traditional television.

Both models will ship in March and include a built-in flash for digital still picture taking and an LCD viewscreen.

Meanwhile, Panasonic also showed its newest portable DVD player, model DVD-LX9 featuring a 9-inch VGA LCD screen, multi-format compatibility and it is the first Panasonic product to incorporate the new High Performance Media Access Technology (HighMAT) standard co-developed with Microsoft. HighMAT is a software standard that “ensures compatibility between personal computers and electronics devices.”

For example, JPEG images and digital music files recorded using the HighMAT equipped Windows Media 9 player on a PC to a CD-R or DVD-R disc, will be playable on a HighMAT electronics product, such as the DVD-LX9. Additionally, the system offers an easy-to-navigate disc menu so individual files on a disc full of various forms of content can be easily found and played. File types recognized by HighMAT include: JPEG, MP3, WMA, WMV and MPEG 4. HighMAT discs will also be playable by non-HighMAT PCs and other devices “in the usual manner.”

The system will eventually be added to other Panasonic product categories, and the company said it expects the format to quickly become an industry standard.

Model DVD-LX9 also offers progressive scan output and a docking station that enables users to quickly disconnect and reconnect the player to their home theater systems.