Pioneer's Asano Previews Technology

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Pioneer Electronics USA president T. Asano, previewed new technology and discussed his company's current performance during a recent press briefing in New York, but he also outlined the company's product plans in a variety of categories. Here is a rundown:

CD-R vs. MiniDisc: "You are going to see a heavier emphasis on CD-R right now from us," Asano said. The company's newest CD-recorder, the single-well PDR509, will ship in September at an expected everyday price of $499 compared to a current model's $599.

Although it has MiniDisc in its home and car audio lines, Pioneer will not emphasize the format.

Portable Internet audio players: Pioneer is looking at the category but has no firm plans to enter. Nonetheless, Asano said, "you might see it from us at CES."

Digital radio: Pioneer recently signed a licensing agreement with XM Satellite Radio to build satellite digital audio radio (S-DAR) receivers, but Asano also said the company is considering terrestrial in-band on-channel (IBOC) digital radio technology.

Car stereo: Asano claimed that Pioneer garnered a "one-third share" of the aftermarket in the second quarter and that its single-CD sales for that period rose 80% over the year-ago period. "This performance is especially significant because car stereo is considered a mature market."

Car multimedia: "This category has energized the car electronics industry," Asano said. "Many see it as a niche product, due to its pricing, but retailers tell us it has been some time since [consumers] have been this excited about a new product introduction."

Plasma displays: Sales have been steady and have met expectations for this year. A second-generation plasma model, also a 50-inch widescreen unit featuring a native 1,280 x 768p display, will be available next month at about $20,000. Asano said the new model's contrast ratio is 2.7 times better than the existing unit, which is priced at $22,000, and the brightness performance is 1.6 times better. Like the existing model, it upconverts standard NTSC sources and DVD to 768p and downconverts 1080i signals.

Video: All of the company's analog projection TVs to be shipped this fall will be widescreen, DTV-ready models that can be paired with a set-top HDTV decoder box. Pioneer has no plans at this time to offer projection TVs with a built-in satellite TV receiver.

Meanwhile, the company is preparing to ship its first DVD changer, a three-disc model that also plays CD, CD-R and CD-RW discs.


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