Sharp executive: Not concerned about Apple iTV launch in the U.S.

The Osaka-based company's head of U.S. operations said consumers are more interested in size and reliability than technology

A Sharp executive said Thursday he was not concerned with the introduction of a rumored "iTV" designed by Steve Jobs and other smart TVs in the U.S. market, and that his company is focused on selling large-screen sets with traditional features.

"I really have no idea what kind of TV it will be. But if he came up with it, I'm sure it will be amazing. When we see it, we may well be caught by surprise, but currently it's not something we're studying very hard," said Kozo Takahashi, who heads Sharp's operations in North and South America.

He made the comments during a press conference in Osaka that was shown to reporters in Tokyo, as he explained Sharp's television strategy in the U.S. Apple is rumored to have an advanced TV in the pipeline for next year, as are rivals Samsung and LG. Takahashi had no comment on media reports Apple is working with Sharp to develop the new device.

In Jobs' biography written by Walter Isaacson, the late executive at one point declares that he's designed an easy-to-use television that eliminates the need for complex remote controls and peripherals, saying, "I finally cracked it."

But Takahashi said U.S. consumers are more focused on price, picture quality and reliability than advanced technology. Sharp's strategy in the country is relatively straightforward: Go large. The company is currently running ads aimed at purchases for Super Bowl Sunday that show an 80-inch TV and read "Touchdownormous."

"Americans are just not as interested in the technology as Japanese are," he said. "Those that buy large TVs want to have all of the features, even if they don't use them. They want 3D even if they don't plan to watch it, and they want Internet connectivity even if they have no real intention to use it."

He said Sharp was likely to beat its target for selling a million TVs that are 60 inches or larger in the Americas in the fiscal year through March, and the market appears to be growing stronger after a good showing on Black Friday.

Sharp has a distinct advantage over competitors when it comes to TVs with larger screens. The company owns massive factories in Japan that churn out giant-sized LED panels that can be efficiently divided up into screens for sets sized 60 inches and larger, while competitors must purchase them from outside producers or use less efficient smaller panels.

The Osaka-based company was the world's fifth-largest flat-panel TV maker by revenues in the July-September quarter, according to data vendor DisplaySearch. Sharp is also a major OEM supplier to other TV manufacturers.

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Jay Alabaster

IDG News Service
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