Year-End Sales Battle Heats Up

The daily announcements of topical new products make one aware that the year-end sales battle is heating up. In particular, the three new jewels of PDPs, digital cameras, and DVD recorders are dominating the headlines and clearly are on the growth track.

The leading makers have prepared massive lineups and are taking up a position geared for victory. Their strategies of further strengthening their strong points are impressive indeed. Among the leading pack, I get the feeling that Panasonic has moved slightly in front with its successive injection of new concepts, giving further impetus to its vertical recovery. Pioneer also looks set to break away from the rest with a powerful lineup of PDPs and DVD recorders that further highlight the unique features of that company. Other companies with potent lineups that reflect their immense enthusiasm include Hitachi, Victor, Sharp, Sanyo, Fujitsu General, and Toshiba.

The difference between the situation this year and that around the same time last year is the presence of Sony. Last year Sony seemed to be hiding behind a veil. In addition, open prices, the guarantee money incident, the lack of growth products, and so on put it in a difficult situation. Sony was hit hard by such factors as the collapse of the information technology bubble.

In April, however, the Miyashita regime took over, and the situation has changed completely. The negative has been turned into the positive. For example, Sony did not have its own PDP or LCD panels, but this year it has launched a lineup with the built-in Wega Engine.

The Sony brand is just like a volcano. Underground there is magma, which builds up in the form of products at the crater, which then erupt above ground and scatter the brand image everywhere. Because of Sony's strong brand image, its repeated launching of powerful products is beginning to catch the attention of consumers. That is the big difference between last year and this year.

With Sony's appearance on the scene, the main actors in this year's year-end sales battle have drawn their swords. It is no exaggeration to say that the real fighting has already begun. No doubt the competition is going to intensify. And what is also certain is that the market will be reinvigorated.

One of the notable features of this year's year-end sales battle is the fact that the so-called casual screen revolution is gaining momentum. Matsushita Electric Vice-President Kazuo Toda has defined the projector as the fourth display. He is quite right. What originally set this idea alight was casual theater by the TH-AE100. Casual theater took off from that starting point. It was indeed a revolution.

We recognized that the picture shown on a screen through CRT, LCD, PDP, or a projector is also a display, and we proposed the idea of a casual screen and a set screen. In particular, we attempted to instigate a casual screen revolution that involved casual theater and to draw in especially the weak baby-boom junior generation.

The EMP-TW10, sold by Epson, is a product based on this thinking. As a result, sound system makers are going to be rejuvenated, I think. Products other than the casual screen are for the wealthy class and the leisure class. For that reason, I firmly believe that the diffusion of the casual screen will lead to a complete home theater boom.

This year's year-end sales battle certainly is going to be riveting.