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Toshiba Re-Enters Integrated High-Definition Market

A re-entry into fully integrated HDTV sets, and the announcement of a TiVo “home media server” with a free basic subscription offer, highlighted Toshiba’s 2003-04 product line review here.

The company introduced a total of 29 HDTV sets and monitors in nine categories, with heavy emphasis on cosmetic restyling and widescreen aspect ratios.

All HDTV sets and monitors this year will include DVI-HDCP digital interfaces, while integrated sets will also add IEEE-1394 with DTCP inputs that conform to CEA’s “DTVLink” standard for AVC equipment interoperability.

Also expanded to five models was Toshiba’s line of flat-panel TVs. These include a 42W-inch (1,024 by 768) plasma display monitor ($6,999.99 suggested retail), a 32W-inch (1,280 by 768) LCD TV monitor ($4,499.99 suggested retail) and a 26W-inch (1,280 by 768) LCD model ($3,299.99 suggested retail) — all with HDTV resolution and widescreen aspect ratios.

The two remaining 4:3 LCD TV models feature 640 by 480 EDTV resolution and will be available in the 20-inch and 14-inch screen sizes. All flat-panel products will include integrated NTSC tuners.

Taking its 1,080p LCoS technology to the next step, the company announced it would expand the category from one to two models this year — including a 57W-inch TheaterWide model and 65W-inch Cinema Series model.

Both models include 3-chip 1080p LCoS light engines, dual NTSC tuners, DVI-HDCP input and dual HD component video inputs. The 57W-inch 57HL83 will ship in September at a $5,499.99 suggested retail. The 65HLX83 Cinema Series LCoS unit ships in October at a $7.499.99 suggested retail.

Meanwhile, all of Toshiba’s fully integrated sets are CRT-based rear-projection models.

TheaterWide integrated sets are available in the 65W-inch ($3,499.99, August), 57W-inch ($2,999.99, July), and 51W-inch ($2,699.99, August) screen sizes. All incorporate new ergonomic styling with split-cabinet designs and 8VSB and QAM demodulation systems for over-the-air and digital cable TV tuning, respectively. Also added is Gemstar’s new TV Guide OnScreen electronic program guide for DTVs. Other features include dual DTVLink inputs, DVI-HDCP, a multicard slot (for SD and SmartMedia flash media formats) for JPEG image viewing, PowerFocus HD2 CRTs, and CableClear DNR+ analog-to-digital video processing, that cleans up poor cable feeds.

Fully integrated Cinema Series sets will all ship in August and add to the TheaterWide package PowerFocus HD4 CRTs, TheaterShield AR, an AccuFocus automatic lens convergence system with 56-point manual setting capability, and a MegaBrand super wide band video amp. Models feature the 65W-inch ($3,799.99); 57W-inch ($3,299.99); and 51W-inch ($2,999.99) screen sizes.

In direct-view HDTV monitors, Toshiba has expanded its offerings to seven models, including the 30W-inch screen size.

Models will be available beginning this summer in the three series, including the 4:3 Theater View HD series with 32-inch ($1,399.99, June) and 36-inch ($1,799.99, June) models; the 16:9 TheaterWide series with 30W-inch ($1,499.99, June) and 34W-inch ($1,999.99, June) models; and the Cinema Series featuring 4:3 32-inch ($1,599.99, July) and 36-inch ($1,999.99, July) models, and a 16:9 34W-inch ($2,199.99, July) model.

A total of 10 CRT-based rear-projection HD monitors will be offered in three series, with the assortment of 4:3 models scaled back to a single unit. The 50H72 ($1,799.99) will be carried over from the previous line as the lone TheaterView rear-projection piece. TheaterWide HD models include the 42W-inch ($1,699.99, May), 46W-inch ($1,799.99, July), 51W-inch ($2,099.99, May), 57W-inch ($2,399.99, April) and 65W-inch ($2,899.99, May) screen sizes.

Cinema Series HD monitor offerings include the 46W-inch ($2,099.99, July), 51W-inch ($2,399.99, June), 57W-inch ($2,699.99, May), and 65W-inch ($3,199.99, July) screen sizes.

To enable the monitors to receive HD content, Toshiba said it would ship the DST-3100 ATSC/DirecTV HD decoder box in July at a $699.99 suggested retail price. The DST-3100 replaces the tardy DST-3000. The new box includes DVI-HDCP digital outputs, HD component video output and an advanced program guide. Ramirez said the box would enable simultaneous output of HD and SD content for multiroom applications.

Meanwhile, Ramirez said Toshiba has reduced its offerings in analog television, but will continue to offer direct view models in both curved glass and FST Pure Flat tube styles. It will also offer a carry-over analog rear-projection model.

In home video products, the company announced plans to ship in August at a $549.95 suggested retail price its SD-H400 TiVo Home Media Server, which combines a single-disc progressive-scan DVD player with an 80GB TiVo Series 2 hard-drive digital video recorder. The system is designed to show the TiVo onscreen menu and all available media, including MP3 music files, JPEGs, recorded video programs and live broadcasts.

The server can also be connected via Ethernet to a PC or home network, and can playback video recordings in progressive scan mode for DTV owners.

In a surprise announcement, Toshiba said it had arranged with TiVo to offer purchasers of the product a free basic subscription service.

Yoshi Uchiyama, Toshiba Digital A/V Group VP, said one of the biggest hindrances to the adoption of digital video recorders has been the monthly service subscription requirement.

With the new basic service offer, users will receive for free a service that delivers up to three days’ worth of programming information at a time. They can use this to find and record TV shows. The current TiVo service (to be renamed TiVo Plus) carries a $12.95 monthly subscription fee and will add a more extensive program list, with robust search controls, and the ability to program “Season Passes” that automatically record a favorite TV series any time a program airs.

Purchasers will be given a free trial to the TiVo Plus Service for an unspecified limited time period when they first activate their units.

TiVo announced it would make the TiVo Basic service option available to other TiVo manufacturing partners, as well. However, the service can not be applied to TiVo units already in the market.