LAS VEGAS — Panasonic used the stage at the Consumer Electronics Show to present its plans to expand beyond electronic products into software and services, including business-to-business services.
But it’s still putting lots of effort into consumer gadgets, especially TVs.
President Kazuhiro Tsuga began his keynote today — the opening day of CES — explaining that it all starts with engineering.
“I am first and foremost an engineer. This is my training, my perspective and my passion,” he said, noting he started as an engineer at Panasonic in 1979.
“Some people think of engineers as rational and analytical. This is true. But we are also passionately driven to solve problems, to turn idealistic visions into useful realities,” he continued. “In fact most of us care quite deeply about making the world we live in better.”
None of the products Panasonic has made over nearly a century “would exist without the fundamtal expertise as an engineering company,” he said.
To figure out what to build, the company is spending more time listening to customers and has set up “lifestyle research centers” around the world, Tsuga said.
When it comes to TVs, consumers want the ability to customize their sets, according to Panasonic.
Tsuga demonstrated a new TV interface that recognizes a user and displays a customized interface. For Tsuga, the set displayed a background image of his favorite golf course in California and his apps across the bottom of the screen. Here’s one of the 55-inch Viera TC-L55WT60 sets that I found on the show floor.
Panasonic also announced what it called the world’s first large-screen 4K OLED set, which weighs just 27 pounds and is less than a half-inch thick. (Rival Sony also had a world’s largest 4K OLED in its press event Monday but the demo failed.)
Panasonic also outlined residential and energy-management products it’s working on, including cloud-connected appliances that it’s developing under a new partnership with IBM.
Consumers are also using Panasonic technology in eco-friendly vehicles such as the Toyota Prius and Tesla cars, which use Panasonic batteries.
GM brought a Chevrolet Malibu Eco on stage during Tsuga’s keynote to highlight the company’s partnership on in-car technology, in which GM is using Panasonic’s app platform.
The coolest new product, though, was a jumbo Windows 8 tablet that Panasonic is introducing for business users. The tablet is around 20-inches diagonally and has ultra high def 4K resolution. Pricing and availability details weren’t provided, but I later found out that it will cost more than $1,500 and go on sale in the second half of this year.
Tsuga also outlined Panasonic business partners, such as McDonald’s — which uses its electronic systems in its restaurants — and United, which is using Panasonic’s avionics system to add fast Internet service and passenger entertainment systems to its planes.
Panasonic’s in-flight entertainment systems are also used in Boeing’s 787 and is expanding to more than 1,600 planes in 2013, the company said.