TiVos and Flat Panels, Oh My!
Established OEM Humax to offer branded product in U.S.
By Joe Paone
At this year's CES, we got sore feet wandering through booth after booth of unfamiliar Korean and Chinese companies looking to carve their own piece of the American video market pie. Many of them, and many similar vendors already plying their wares through big-box retail and the Internet, are aiming for the low-end, if you can consider an LCD television priced in four digits a "bargain" for the average American consumer.
Korean manufacturer Humax, which had its own U.S. coming-out party at CES, isn't playing that game. Its upcoming line of flat-panel TVs and TiVo-powered DVRs will be outfitted with home-grown technology, enhanced functionality, and installer-friendly features, while retaining affordable prices.
Humax was founded in 1989 by seven university graduates. In 1992, it claims, it introduced the world's first CD karaoke machine. In 1995, it introduced its first digital satellite set-top box, and henceforth moved heavily into that market, and later digital cable boxes. DSS STBs are a $300 million business for Humax, which says it's one of the top three global DSS STB manufacturers.
Humax has established subsidiaries throughout Europe and Asia; it is now active in 90 countries overall. In 2000, it entered the U.S. behind the scenes through a joint venture with Samsung to develop and manufacture set-top boxes for U.S. satellite providers.
Now, for the first time, the U.S. market will see Humax-branded products, and they'll be far from commodities. And it's not just slapping its name on sourced product; 58 percent of its approximately 400 employees are working in R&D. The goal is to become a "competitive global CE brand with $1 billion in revenues worldwide by 2006."
Humax Sales and Marketing Vice President Tony Goncalves is no spring chicken to American CE, having managed launches of LCD monitors and front projectors at Sharp as well as Samsung's satellite business. Now leading Humax's U.S. marketing and distribution efforts, he says the U.S. brand launch is fueled by a diversification strategy that builds on Humax's set-top box knowledge. DVRs and TVs with integrated tuners, says Goncalves, are outgrowths of Humax's cornerstone set-top box and tuner technologies: "A DVR is a set-top box, and set-top boxes are tuners.