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Philips Rolls Out ‘Ambilight,’ Cineos HDTV Lines

Philips will deliver early next month its first Ambilight flat-panel HDTV monitors, which feature rear-screen lighting that illuminates surrounding walls with colors to match the dominant lighting on the screen.

The Ambilight system, which was developed using “core competencies” from Philips Electronics and Philips Lighting, automatically senses onscreen brightness and color, and it adjusts the lighting projected from the rear sides of the panel to match the picture. The system enables viewers to shut off all of the lights in the room, while preventing viewers’ pupils from opening too wide or closing too tightly under a variety of brightness conditions.

Philips said focus group studies found viewers perceive improved picture performance when the Ambilight feature is turned on.

Des Power, Philips Consumer Electronics’ senior VP, said the unique HD-level plasma and LCD monitors will be carried by key retail chains, including Best Buy, Bose stores, BrandsMart USA, CompUSA, Electronics Expo, Fry’s, Good Guys, Howard’s Superstores, Magnolia Audio & Video, Pacific Sales, P.C. Richard & Son, Tweeter and Ultimate Electronics.

Best Buy, which will be among the first to receive deliveries at the end of June, has opted to carry the entire six-model Ambilight assortment.

The Ambilight series features one 50W-inch plasma display ($8,799 suggested retail), two 42W-inch plasma displays ($5,499 and $6,499), a 42W-inch LCD TV ($10,999) monitor and two 32W-inch LCD HDTV monitors ($3,999 and $4,399).

In total, the Philips line will include 21 flat-panel models with screen sizes ranging from 15-inches to 50W-inches. LCD TV models in the 17-inch, 23-inch and 26-inch screen sizes will feature a new “dish design” offering clean styling lines, swivel base and ergonomically styled pedestal stand and remote control.

The company also carries three flat-panel EDTV monitors under the volume-oriented Magnavox line in the 15-inch, 20-inch and 42W-inch screen sizes.

All new Philips-branded panels 30W-inches and larger will include both wall mounts and table stands. Philips has also stepped away from using separate media boxes (which it called “e-boxes” in prior lines) to house jacks, tuners and picture-processing circuitry. All flat-panel sets will include speakers, jacks, NTSC tuners, and picture processing circuitry built into the panel.

Meanwhile, Philips is now rolling out its third generation Cineos LCoS rear-projection HDTV monitors, based on the company’s one-chip light engine design.

The company is carrying four models in the MatchLine and Epic series in two screen sizes — 55W-inches and 62W-inches. The 55W-inch models — MatchLine 55p19774 ($4,299) and Epic 55p19524 ($3,799) — are in stores now, while the 62W-inch models — MatchLine 62p19774 ($4,299) and Epic 62p19524 ($4,199) — will be available by the end of June.

In addition, Philips is carrying in its HD Series a fully integrated third-generation Cineos model, the 44pl9523, which carries a $2,999 suggested retail. The unit includes ATSC tuning but does not have a built-in CableCARD slot.

Cineos models will be offered in two cosmetic styles, one black cabinet and one two-tone silver and black cabinet.

Power said the company has made key product improvements to enhance picture performance, which he expects will help the company take a significant market share position in the rapidly growing microdisplay based rear-projection television category.

“We are absolutely convinced that LCoS will be the winning format in the microdisplay rear-projection TV category,” Power said. “The two major segments of television where we are targeting market share gains this year are flat TV and microdisplay. In flat TV we have said to be a major player in this business you have to be at 20 percent market share, and that remains our ambition.

“In microdisplay, because we are just starting, our ambition is to be well into the teens in market share, and that would be as we ramp up through 2005,” he continued.

Power said Philips’ strength will be in providing “an alternative to DLP” in microdisplay, and “we are leading the LCoS charge.”

Improvements in the third generation include a new dichroic mirror for a purer blue color performance, and “a more robust manufacturing process” that brings together light engine manufacturing and chip attachment in the same German facility. Past issues of light leakage around the light engine were also addressed, the company said.

Regarding Philips’ strategy for addressing the ATSC tuner mandate, Power said: “We are starting to roll out some larger-screen products that are fully integrated, and we are working to get ATSC tuners into our flat-panel TV range of products. You will start to see some of those products later this year.”

Philips will have four fully integrated rear-projection HDTV sets this year, including the previously mentioned HD Series 44W-inch Cineos LCoS model, and three CRT-based rear-projection HDTV sets in the 51W-inch 51pp9920 ($2,100 suggested retail), the 55W-inch 55pp9920 ($2,300) and the 60W-inch 60pp9920 ($2,600).

In DVD recorders, the company is scaling back dedicated single-drive models to one model that is shipping now at a $399 suggested retail price and is adding combination devices, including a combination DVD recorder/VCR, and DVD recorder/digital video recorder (DVR), which will ship later in the year.

All DVD recording products continue to be based solely on the DVD+RW/+R recordable disc formats.

The HDR-W720 ($699) combination DVR and high-speed dubbing DVD recorder will ship this summer. Features include a 120GB hard drive for up to 180 hours of recording time and the TVGuide Plus subscription-free onscreen program guide service to assist users in finding and selecting programs to record.

Philips also announced a new IR-powered home entertainment system remote — model RC-9800i ($499) — which is positioned as a more affordable but highly functional and easy-to-use alternative to the company’s family of advanced iPronto products.