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Thomson Seeks New Video Niche

After a long evaluation of the market, Thomson has decided not to re-enter the camcorder category so much as to attempt to create a new niche, said business development director Rich Phipps.

In partnership with one-time use digital camera maker Pure Digital, Thomson — whose RCA brand once ranked at or near the top of camcorder market share surveys before declining profitability forced the vendor to drop the line several years ago — introduced the RCA EZ101, a flash-memory-based “MPEG-4 recorder.”

The unit features a USB port for transferring images and can be brought to Pure Digital partner retailers, such as CVS or Ritz Camera Centers, for DVD burning.

The EZ101 is not a camcorder in the traditional sense, Phipps added. “The usage scenarios for this are quite different than a traditional camcorder. These will be used more frequently — it’s an ‘impulse’ camcorder used more like a digital still camera.”

The unit can record VGA video clips at 30 frames per second, up to a total of approximately 30 minutes on internal memory, and features a 1.4-inch color LCD used for video playback.

Unlike the flash-based MPEG-4 video recorders from Sony and Sanyo, the EZ101 cannot capture still images. “We’re only focused on video,” Phipps said.

Pure Digital’s built-in video software for editing and viewing stored video clips was another key, Phipps added.

Thomson plans another version of the camcorder soon. “You’ll see increasing differentiation” between the Pure Digital product (which is available under its own brand in Target stores) and Thomson’s, Phipps said.

The EZ101 is retailing for a suggested $129 and future products will likely fall above and below that price point. “We’ll definitely add more features, more memory capacity, in addition to keeping an entry-level piece,” Phipps said.

The camcorder will be promoted on and initially sold through Meijer’s. Thomson’s retail strategy would be guided, in part, by an attempt “to exploit the unique nature of this product,” Phipps added.