Pioneer Adds 3D Blu-ray, Readies Android App

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— Pioneer came to the CEDIA Expo with its first 3D Blu-ray players, an Android app and some positive words about its growing share of the A/V receiver market.

The Blu-ray players are the BDP-430 and the Elite series BDP-41FD and BDP-43FD. All feature PC networking that was lacking in the models they will replace. The new DLNA 1.5-certified models stream audio, video and pictures from a networked PC or network-attached storage (NAS) drive.

The new models also expand the selection of Internet streaming services accessible over a home network, adding Pandora and another soon-to-be-announced music service. The services will join the Netflix and YouTube services accessible on the players that will be replaced.

All three new models will also feature optional Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n dongle to connect to a Wi-Fi network, and they’ll feature an HD GUI.

The trio will ship in late November or early December at prices that will be the same or less than their predecessors, which were MAPpriced at $299, $399 and $499, said Chris Walker, director of product planning and marketing.

Going forward, all new Pioneer Blu-ray players will be 3D, he added.

To control the players and Pioneer A/V receivers (AVRs), the company is developing an app that will enable Android-based smartphones to control all Pioneer Blu-ray and AVR functions via Wi-Fi, effectively replacing the IR remotes that come with the Pioneer devices. The Android app, said to be due soon, also displays a menu of a networked PC’s audio, video and digital-imaging content. Via the phones’ DLNA-server capability, consumers will also be able to push PC content from the PC to the Blu-ray player.

Pioneer already offers an iPod/iPhone app that controls a limited number of Pioneer functions, and a planned upgrade will enable the app to view a menu of content in a networked PC’s iTunes application. Apple’s iPods and iPhones, however, don’t support DLNA server capability, Pioneer said.

On business topics, home entertainment division VP Russ Johnston said the company’s AVR unit share shot up to a strong No. 2 beginning April 2009 from monthly shares that fluctuated among third, fourth and fifth place. Johnston cited the expansion of frontpanel iPod/iPhone-controlling USB ports in every AVR from $299 and higher, making the purchase of $100 docks unnecessary. The USB ports access an iPod/iPhone’s PCM outputs, and they stream composite video from a connected iPod. An iPod-to-USB cable is included with the AVRs.

Pioneer increased its AVR business “significantly” without expanding the company’s distribution base, Johnston said.

Pioneer AVR sales are also up this year because of renewed growth in the AVR market, whose unit sell-through for each of the past six months has been running 6 percent 12 percent over last year, he said. The industry is up because 3D-capable HDMI 1.4a inputs and outputs are giving dealers “a reason to present an AVR,” he said.

Recent AVR market growth marks the first time in three years that AVR sales have grown year over year, Johnston noted.


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