Panasonic CTO: Upbeat On TV Demand, Down On Apple TV

Eisuke-TsuyuzakiPanasonic’s North American CTO cast doubt on whether Apple would be successful in launching a new smart TV product, which would include a voice-activated remote control a la Siri and other bells and whistles

“If someone wants to get into the business of televisions and lose a lot of money, OK,” said Eisuke Tsuyuzaki wryly at a Multichannel News event.

As for Siri's voice control on the iPhone, Tsuyuzaki said he applauded Apple for it, but characterized it as so-so. As for Apple cutting into Panasonic’s sales in a tough TV market, he said: “We’ll have our piece in it too, and we’ll be fine.”

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is forecasting a slight decline in sales in 2012 at 33.6 million sets, down from an estimated 34.3 million in 2011.

Reasons for the declines, Tsuyuzaki said, include an “oversupply of certain manufacturers” -- Panasonic has “made our adjustments” -- along with the industry being “slow to react” to the recession regarding price points. He also cited rising consumer interest in tablets and smartphones.

Overall, while TV sales may have been hurt, the bottom has hardly fallen out as consumers still want “bigger and bigger TVs and that hasn’t changed.”

3D and IPTV could also resuscitate some of the business. So could connecting the various mobility devices with the traditional set and offering synced experiences. “It’s in our interest to figure that out,” Tsuyuzaki said.

CEA projects 3D TV sales to double in 2012 to 6.2 million. 

On whether Panasonic would follow Sony in offering Google TV, the Pansonic executive declined to comment, but said the Google open-source platform offers pluses and minuses. One benefit is if a company feels it is behind in a particular field, such as mobility, there is an opportunity to catch up more quickly. A downside is that there could be product commoditization.

Panasonic has no plans to enter the pure-play content business, where Sony appears to be aiming, in order to use its assets to make its hardware more attractive. That decision was made before Tsuyuzaki took on his role and he said: “I’d rather stick to engineering, that is our DNA.”

Panasonic, however, is interested in using its technology to move into other fields, such as health care and home surveillance and energy consumption.

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