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Seiko Epson Launches Micro Projection TVs in Japan
Jun 1, 2004
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Japan's Seiko Epson Corp. said that it would begin selling microdisplay rear-projection televisions in Japan, marking its entry into the highly competitive domestic market for large, flat-screen TVs.

Seiko Epson made headlines earlier this year by launching microdisplay rear-projection televisions in the North American market, where the genre is gaining in popularity because they are about half the price of similarly sized plasma display TVs.

The Nagano-based company is hoping the Japanese consumer will also take to the technology, which uses liquid crystal display (LCD) panels to project small images in the back of the set onto a large, plastic screen.

Microdisplay rear-projection TVs are much thinner and weigh less than traditional cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions, but are still bulkier than plasma sets, which dominate the domestic market for thin TVs more than 40 in.

Size is a major issue in Japan given that homes tend to be smaller than in the West. "It is often said that the reason (large, rear) projection televisions haven't taken off in Japan is because Japanese homes tend to be small," Kenji Uchida, managing director of Seiko Epson's visual instruments division, told a news conference. "But I think the main reason has been with the picture quality of (large-sized) CRT TVs."

Seiko Epson unveiled two models, one 47 in and the other sporting a 57-in screen, for launch in Japan. The models will be sold through a dedicated Web site, and the company aims to ship 10,000 in the first year.

The 47-in model will sell for 460,000 yen (approx. U.S. $4,170) and the 57-in TV for 560,000 yen. They will not be sold through normal retail channels, and Seiko Epson does not plan to advertise the new products on television, the company said.

"It is still not clear just how big the Japanese market will become," Executive Vice President Norio Niwa said.

Sold under the brand name "Livingstation," the TVs come with a built-in printer that can produce prints off the screen. The domestic models are said to basically the same as those sold in the U.S., with a few minor alterations. Seiko Epson has sold about 2,000 units in the U.S. since it began selling the TVs there in March, Mr. Niwa said.

Seiko Epson said it expected the global microdisplay projection television market to grow to 3.3 million units in the 2006 fiscal year from 667,000 in 2003. (Reuters)

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