Pioneer Launches Four Knockout Products (PIO)

| About: Pioneer Corp. (PNCOF)
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By Carl Howe

At the Pioneer press conference today at the Consumer Electronics Show, Pioneer (ticker: PIO) announced four products I found particularly notable among the many they announced:

1. A hard-drive-based navigation system. Pioneer is introducing a new series of navigation system under the name AVIC. The top end system has a hard disk inside instead of a DVD, allowing it to run faster than if it used an optical drive. The top-of-the-line AVID-Z1 provides higher definition navigation, smart routing (this system takes into account multiple parameters like stop lights, speed limits, and learns the user's preferred route), and XM NavTraffic (detailed traffic info off the XM satellite system). Not only that, but it adds voice recognition of entire addresses, DVD playback for displays in the rear seat, enhanced iPod controls, and Bluetooth cell phone connectivity as well. The system also will rip CDs to the hard drive and play it back. It will be available in April 2006 for $2250.

2. Two Blu-ray blue laser optical players. Pioneer will introduce a 1080p Blu-ray player in its Elite line of products in May 2006 at a price of $1,800. In addition to all the great new video standards that come with Blu-ray, the player will support a new audio decoding system of DTS-HD. Pioneer is also introducing a PC-based Blu-ray (BDR-101A) disk drive in Q1 2006. This will run $995. This drive is actually targeted at authoring companies, not consumers, and doesn't support CD reading and writing. Interestingly, the Blu-ray drives won't support recording yet; Pioneer executive Andy Parson's noted that Pioneer is trying to ensure that packaged high definition playback is successful so that content creators will adopt the standard before focusing on recording.

3. A 50-inch 1080p plasma display. The Elite Pro-FHD1 sports 2 million pixels (1920x1080). It will be released in June 2006 for about $10,000, and it will accept a 1080p signal through its HDMI input. Not coincidentally, Pioneer's Blu-ray player outputs a true 1080p signal via HDMI. Isn't it great when a plan comes together?.

One interesting question that arose during the questions and answers was whether the Blu-ray drives would be able to output component video signals at more than standard definition. Of course, they weren't really able to answer the question, since the final copy protection guidelines have not been completely signed off on. Oh well; if they answered all the questions in advance, no one would come to the actual product launch.

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