Pioneer Confirms Will No Longer Make Plasmas
The official announcement states: "We have judged that maintaining the cost competitiveness of plasma display panels at projected sales volumes will be difficult going forward. Accordingly, we have decided to terminate in-house plasma display panel production and to procure these panels externally, after panel production for our next series of models is complete."
Of previous reports that Pioneer would source the panels from Panasonic, the announcement would say only that "Pioneer is currently in discussions on the feasibility of procuring panel modules that may incorporate the Company's proprietary technologies." In other words, Pioneer's world-class Kuro plasma technology may survive on someone else's factory floor.
"Some Pioneer engineers may be transferred to Matsushita [Panasonic] in the process," says Gizmodo, quoting the Japanese news organization Nikkei, which first broke the Pioneer story earlier this week.
According to TWICE, Pioneer "will continue research and development into plasma technology, applying back-end electronics to improve picture performance."
In fact, the oursourcing of the glass is getting more play than it deserves, Pioneer asserted in a Gizmodo interview. The filter and the processor are just as important, Pioneer executive VP Russ Johnston said.
Despite the outsourcing, Pioneer won't let go of the Kuro name. It will be applied not only (presumably) to future plasma lines, but also to new lines of Sharp-made, Pioneer-branded LCD DTVs. Sharp bought a large stake in Pioneer several months ago, so the two are more than just friends, and the change in plasma strategy is presumably one of the outcomes of that corporate realignment. Having posted losses for four consecutive years, Pioneer hopes to become profitable again by 2010.
Pioneer's announcement said the company will shift attention to more (potentially) profitable business such as Blu-ray, DJ gear, and car audio. Pioneer is already a major Blu-ray manufacturer. In fact, Sony-branded BD players bear more than a passing resemblance to Pioneer-made ones. However, whether Pioneer will continue to manufacture Blu-ray may be uncertain given this statement: "We will use joint development and oursourcing to enhance our lineup of Blu-ray Disc recorders and other products." Over to you, Sharp? Just speculating, of course.
Another focus, perhaps counterintuitively, will be the loudspeaker business. Pointing to its 70-year track record in this area, Pioneer says it will produce speakers for car, home, mobile phones, flat-panel TVs, and business-use applications, aiming to become "the world's leading manufacturer in terms of both quantity and quality."
Kuro fans, your comments?