Interview: Toshiba enters business display market

posted on Saturday, 26th April 2014 by Steve May

Commercial  ISE  Digital signage 

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Toshiba is the latest major manufacturer to set its sights on the commercial AV market. The brand made its business debut at this year's ISE, and is now rolling out a range of high specification speciality displays into UK, France and Germany. In its inaugural line-up are Ultra HD displays for business and commercial applications, superwide 32:9 ratio panels, video walls, pro signage models, touchpanel displays and screens targeted at the education, hospitality, retail and leisure markets, with 24/7 operation. To learn more, Inside CI talked exclusively with Director of Sales Liam LaCumbre (pictured above)…

Given Toshiba's B2B heritage in the laptop market, it'll perhaps surprise some that you're only now moving into commercial AV displays…

Liam LaCumbre: "I guess it's a case of better late than not do it at all. But the market is only really starting to get momentum. Yes, there's been great growth within it, but the opportunity for the future is much, much bigger than the market size we currently see. About a year ago we looked at the B2B, digital signage and LFD markets and made an internal commitment that we would enter that marketplace. As a company, Toshiba has a historical heritage in B2B, the foundations of the whole organisation are based on that. Having strength there, it seemed right and correct that we should be involved in the digital signage business. 

Launching at ISE was quite a statement of intent. Was the intention to come to pro AV with all guns blazing?

LaCumbre: "Historically, Japanese companies are not the all-guns-blazing type, but we will have some specialist products to explore new market segments. We had a great reception at ISE this year, and we're already committed to ISE 2015, with a bigger space in one of the more prominent halls. Our commitment is there."

TUM32PRO1 UHD MonitorThere are exciting new technologies beginning to drive the professional displays. Ultra HD seems like a great opportunity…

LaCumbre: "In the future, a lot of growth will come from Ultra HD. The product line up we've got going forward will be focussed on developing and bringing through Ultra HD in all shapes and sizes. We've just launched the TUM-32PRO1 Ultra HD 32-inch monitor for the specialist photography market (pictured above). With an Adobe RGB 99 per cent colour gamut it's ideal for photo studios, recording studios, places like that. We've also brought out the TD-X551X and TD-X551M 55-inch LED backlit multi-screen videowall units (pictured below), ideal for installers requiring large displays. These monitors have the capability to create enormous images, in multiple configurations, when tiled together."

Where do you see opportunities for commercial installers and integrators?

LaCumbre: "One of the big growth areas will small businesses, where they don't want a purely system integrated solution as it becomes cost prohibitive. If you look at what's happening in retail communities, you'll see the biggest application for digital signage/LFD type products. Retailers are looking at how to best interface with their customer base. Many are changing store formats, we're seeing a lot of interest in ways to improve in-store experience.

How closely allied is this new commercial display venture to Toshiba's TV consumer retail business?

LaCumbre: "We specifically set up the business with separate sales teams and different routes to market. In terms of distribution, Midwich is our key partner. We have a long standing relationship with them. We actually started bringing LFD products to market around Sept/October last year, putting our toes in the water, developing our distribution strategy with channel partners. By the time of our official launch at ISE we had Midwich onboard, and we're bringing system integration people onboard. We're also engaged with our sister company Toshiba Tech and our B2B PC business."

Video Wall MainWould you say your pro panel propositions are a good fit with the custom install market and hospitality sector?

LaCumbre: "Well, many of the products we will be bringing to market are high specification! We've already been successful in stadium and hospitality types of business. That will become much bigger. We're also looking at education, working with universities and halls or residence."

What's your goal for this opening year? How big a slice of the Pro AV pie are you aiming for?

LaCumbre: "My Japanese colleagues keep asking me to put a figure on just that, but from my perspective in many countries we don't a presence at all. So the objective is to establish the right channels, building the infrastructure around that. Our objective for the next 18 months is to create a sustainable B2B business, one that will mean significant revenues."

32 9 Display

Both your 32:9 superwide P32LC12 display (pictured above) and Ultra HD monitor are cutting edge. Where else is Toshiba looking to innovate?

LaCumbre: "A lot of these products have a strong eco message. We're looking at low energy type usage, much more so than even a few years ago. A lot of the pressures from government are about cost savings in terms of energy usage. These are things we're very much proud of. Within Toshiba, eco and power saving are massively important areas."

Also read:
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Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

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