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Zenith Aims In Digital Direction

Zenith brought one of its largest exhibits ever to CES to demonstrate a wide range of new and future television and video products designed to help retailers make the transition into the digital future.

Among its more dramatic “technology statements,” the company showed a working HDTV DVD player that a product representative said was based on blue laser technology.

The unit was developed by the LG Electronics and could be ready for a market introduction in two to three years, the representative said.

Issues such as high production cost and lack of digital content protection still must be addressed.

Zenith revealed that it is exploring Pioneer’s DVD-RW disc recording format for future DVD recorders. The company gave demonstrations of a recorder, although no marketing plans were revealed.

At CES, the company used a 60W” HD-capable plasma-display panel developed by LG as a central showpiece. The panel produces 1,365 x 768-pixel resolution at a 550:1 contrast ratio. Zenith plans to introduce the product in the first quarter of 2001. It will market 40″ plasma panels later this year.

Zenith is also showing two widescreen HDTV-ready direct-view monitors in the 38W” screen size. The 38W” monitors do not have flat screens, like Zenith’s new Flatron series, but do feature dual-scanning functions that will show NTSC images and 1080i HDTV images scaled to a 540p format. Zenith is showing the product as both a table model and as “digital furniture.”

Other digital direct-view models include 32″ and 36″ 4:3 monitors described as “HD-ready.” Another new technology on display was an HDTV-ready 60W” LCD-based rear-projection set, which will display the 720p HD format in native resolution.

The set offers a 100-degree viewing angle and compatibility with both DTV set-top decoders and computer CPUs (up to XGA graphics).

Keeping pace with the flat-tube trend at the show, Zenith showed a line of Flatron flat-faced analog direct-view sets. Screen sizes include 16″, 20″, 24″, 27″ (two models) and 31″.

Zenith unveiled a line of “kids’ ” televisions that feature modern styling and bright colors, reminiscent of products popular in the European market. A company spokesman said the sets will be offered in the 19″ and 13″ screen sizes and exact color options are being determined.

In other news, Zenith said it has signed an agreement to include circuitry for the Wink Enhanced TV service into Zenith’s multimedia TV line over the next three years. TVs equipped with Wink are planned in the 27″, 32″ and 36″ multimedia models that include Telecruz TC701 integrated circuitry for advanced interactive services.

Zenith used a 27″ Flatron set to demonstrate Wink’s interactive data overlay system on the show floor.