Pitching enhanced picture and sound quality, Panasonic is set to launch a host of plasma and LCD flat panel televisions into the Australian market in mid-September.
The visual entertainment products, dubbed Viera, had already been launched in the Japan, North American and European markets, Panasonic Australia’s managing director, Toshiro Kisaka, said.
“There’s a worldwide surge in flat panel TVs. In Japan, it captured 20 per cent of all TVs sold in 2003,” Kisaka said.
He predicted flat panel sales would bulge to 48 per cent of that market next year.
The Australian product launch includes four widescreen flat panel TVs ranging from a 26-inch LCD to a 50-inch plasma.
The technology incorporated a high definition (HD) format, a Secure Digital (SD) memory card slot and a PC card slot, Panasonic’s category marketing manager for consumer electronics, Ritchie Djamhur, said.
“Viera is a new design and visual experience that goes beyond the simple monitor format, combining picture, sound and connectivity technology,” he said.
Beefing up on connectivity, the models allowed users to view images taken on a digital camera or camcorder, and also connect games consoles, Djamhur said. The PC input, meanwhile, let users connect the panel to a laptop and use it as a computer monitor.
On the plasma front, Djamhur said key features included the addition of the real black drive system, which reduced emissions when reproducing black; an acuity core, which reduced the halo effect around high-contrast edges; and the addition of an integrated smart sound speaker system, which used wide speakers at the left and right of the screen.
“The flat panel market has gone from the aspirational to the accessible,” Djamhur said.
He estimated 60,000 units had been sold during the past 12 months in Australia (representing $300 million). That figure is expected to surge to 150,000 units next year, he said.
In Australia, more than 350,000 consumers have the capacity to receive digital TV, but Djamhur said he expected this to double in the next 12 months.
As part of the distribution strategy, Panasonic was taking the message to mass merchants over the next four weeks, Panasonic Australia director, Geoff Hannaford, said. And while the identity of the merchants was still under wraps, Hannaford said the company planned to assist retailers with instore displays of the plasma and LCD technology, along with offering training modules.
Resellers — including niche integrators and traditional dealers — were also on the radar screen, Hannaford said.