GE Raises the TV Bar

January 8th, 2009

Las Vegas, Nevada, January 8, 2009 — Shortly after 8:30 yesterday morning I was in a suite at the Marriott Renaissance Hotel here, speaking with executives of the relatively new General Displays and Technologies Company (GDT) about their imminent introduction of General Electric (GE) TV sets into the U.S. market.

Ken Werner
Senior Analyst and Editor

Several things make this story interesting, if not improbable. First, GE has not been involved in the TV business for years. And its involvement in consumer electronics has been confined to licensing its brand to Asian makers of low-cost and undistinguished products such as cordless phones. And, of course, this would appear to be the worst possible time to bring a new brand into the North American TV market.

But this initiative is real, and GDT’s goal is to make GE a top-tier brand that rivals the likes of Sony, Samsung, and Sharp. The executive team includes CEO Marc McConnaughey (formerly ViewSonic) and industry veterans Peter Weedfald (President) and Sam Miller (VP, Display Technologies).

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Weedfald made clear that this is far more than a licensing venture. GE owns 49% of the new venture and monitor maker Tatung owns 51%. GE is supplying management oversight and the support of its GE Commercial Finance arm. Tatung also owns panel maker CPT, and GDT is sourcing its smaller LCD panels (through 32-inch) from CPT. The larger panels (from 32 inches and up) are sourced from AUO. (Both companies will be supplying 32-inch panels.)

The initial products are TVs with Internet connectivity (IPTVs) and monitors. Set-top boxes and projectors will follow.

Weedfald said the only way GDT could reasonably take share from the industry’s leaders is to have very distinct product differentiation, and that differentiation will rest on excellent industrial design, superb image quality, Internet connectivity, many advanced features across the entire line, and making the products convenient for consumers.

One of the features is that all sets have wireless audio enabled. Consumers can buy a wireless audio external subwoofer, a sound bar, and headphones. The system can handle three wireless audio devices simultaneously, and all sets come with SRS volume leveling.

Sam Miller showed me some prototypes that will probably reach market late this year. Among them is a very slim 46-inch TV with a GLT edgelight that uses white Luminus LEDs and GLT’s lightguide blades. Also in the pipeline are a wireless video box that will support 1080i, and a developmental box that uses a thin optical fiber for the box-to-TV link, instead of wireless. This is a very neat solution that offers very high bandwidth and box-to-set distance ability. GDT is trying to determine whether this elegant solution will find favor with consumers and installers.

There is much more to say about GDT and the technical and commercial sophistication of its principals. You can read about it in the next issue of Insight Media’s Large Display Report.

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