Behind the Box Tiny Mirrors, Big Impact
"We really think it [front projection] gets exciting at under $999," Said Redder. The company did some experiments with focus groups by taking a projector into a home environment, hooking it up to a DVD player and shining it on a blank white wall. The people were excited with how good and how easy it really was. "Both men and women responded fabulously to this." TI hopes to see 16:9 HDTV-quality front projectors priced under $10,000 very soon. Last year Sharp introduced an HD projector for $11,000. In April Runco announced one for $10,000. "There's really no reason we couldn't achieve this," Redder noted. In rear projection TVs TI has even bigger goals—to see a second generation HDTV chip TV under $2,999. "I think you will see that by 2003." Already a Turkish television manufacturer, Vestel, has announced plans to introduce a 43-inch DLP television priced at about $3,000 but targeted at the European market. The prototype shown at the IFA show in Berlin in 2001 utilized a first generation high-definition DMD but only a 1024 x 576 pixel area was active.
What will low pricing like that do to manufacturers like Mitsubishi, Runco and Sim2, whose products tend to carry a premium price? On the one hand, technology has to progress, and with that progression comes price declines. However, there will always be premium-priced products and entry-level products. A 27-inch television and a three-tube CRT front projector use essentially the same display technology, yet they differ drastically in price and performance.
Reder subscribes to the position that there is room in the electronics world for both levels of product and both levels of price—those for the total integrated home theater enthusiast (served by the CEDIA dealers and installers) and the do-it-yourself theater buyer, who may purchase business projectors off the Internet. In the business projection market Hewlett Packard just released a 4:3 model for less than $2,000 with an 1800:1 contrast ratio and the ability to accept high definition signals. "I think the do-it-yourself home theater crowd will really latch on to that kind [of projector]. Both markets can co-exist. I think the home theater market will continue to grow."