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Panasonic Starts ‘Small’ With Internet Integration

Jun 5, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Panasonic is taking small steps toward Internet integration with big TVs.
The Matsushita Electric unit this year is unveiling what it says is the first set-top-box-free Internet-enabled television on the market.
The televisions, which come equipped with limited Internet access, hit the market last month with the 46-inch and 50-inch versions of Panasonic’s PZ850 Viera line, while the 58-inch and 65-inch models will be sold starting in the fall, Panasonic executives said in a Los Angeles presentation this week.
With a single Ethernet cord connecting the TV to the Internet, customers can access YouTube and the Picasa Web photo album site as well as the Bloomberg and Weather Channel Web sites.
Panasonic is working out agreements with other Web sites to broaden the Internet selection and will send customers software updates for the TVs once those agreements are struck.
While established companies such as Sony and Samsung do battle with more recent arrivals like Vizio for the lower end of the flatscreen market, Panasonic is using the new models to build demand among higher-end customers. North America’s biggest plasma TV seller had about a third of the market in the first quarter and boosted its unit sales 16% from a year earlier, NPD Group unit DisplaySearch said in a report last month.
The prices start at about $3,100 for the 46-inch version and about $3,500 for the 50-inch model. Panasonic’s most expensive liquid-crystal display set, which has a 37-inch screen but no Internet access, retails for about $1,600.
As for the selection, the company believes customers are more likely to treat the Internet options like additional business and entertainment channels than a Web-surfing opportunity.
“We’re not trying to replicate a PC experience on TV,” Victor Carlson, director of innovation at Panasonic’s consumer marketing group, said at the presentation. “This has the template, and we can update it at any point.”

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