The corporate audio-video industry event Infocomm went back to an in-person format in Orlando, Florida last October, and Sharp/NEC was present in a big way promoting its digital display offering after Sharp and NEC joined forces to create a joint venture. Sharp acquired 66% of NEC Display Solutions Limited, to create the new company, a subsidiary of Sharp.
The company says that the newly formed joint venture will continue to focus on the business-to-business display market, producing and developing a broad range of audiovisual display solutions for a variety of markets and applications.
Cognitive Business News executive editor Loren Moss took time to speak with Sharp/NEC’s product manager for desktop monitors, Horacio Alzate to better understand the new joint venture’s future direction, and more specifically its plans for the company’s broadcast quality monitors.
Cognitive Business News: I wanted to ask about some of your high-end NEC monitors. Sharp has always had a reputation for high end broadcast monitors and color correct monitors, so I wanted to get an understanding of where you are right now. Your PA311D monitor has been out for a couple of years now, I wanted to get an understanding of how that’s been doing in the market. If there are any kinds of other models in that line for that type of use case that maybe have recently been released that we’re not aware of, but that’s where I think our audience is most interested, and so that’s what I wanted to talk to you about and find out, so how is that that was introduced in 2019, right?
Horacio Alzate: So this model was launched in November of 2019, so it’s exactly two years now with the joint venture with Sharp, we’re still streamlining all different categories and all the different models, so we haven’t launched any new models in the 4K category, as of right now, we still have the PA311D, and that’s our flagship monitor, because it’s the only 4K that we have right now. We had a 27 and a 24 inch, but those were not 4K. Right now, we still continue with the PA311D. We don’t have anything planned yet for any new launches until we finish the streamlining the desktop categories, and then it’s probably going to take another year or so before we start launching newer models in that color critical space. Right now, next year, we’re only going to be launching three more models, but they’re not in the color critical space. They’re more for the corporate world 24 and 27 inch monitors, so right now we continue with the PA311D.
Cognitive Business News: Let’s talk about that a little bit, I was a broadcast engineer back in the 90s, and so that’s why this space is especially interesting to me personally. NEC has always competed with other companies like, let’s say, Sony in the professional space. Sharp has traditionally been a big name in the consumer space when it comes to display technology. I think that they’ve had some professional products as well, but I’m interested in if you can kind of unpack the joint venture because I wasn’t sure if it was a merger or tell me about the new relationship that NEC and Sharp forms.
Horacio Alzate: Basically, Sharp Business Solutions bought a portion of the company, so they own 67% of what was NEC Display Solutions, so it’s not like it wasn’t actual merger as such, it was just they bought part of the company. But NEC Display Solutions was always working independently from NEC Corporation from Japan. We report to them, but when it came down to business and practicality, I mean everything. We were basically an independent company, and we continue to be an independent company, so we’re not really part of Sharp Electronics. That’s why the name of the company is Sharp NEC Display Solutions. So we still concentrate on Display Solutions and some of the things that we’re planning is integrating what Sharp Business Solutions had in their product line with our product line, we’re still in the process of coming out with one single line, but it takes time because of production manufacturing, all that is not an overnight type of thing. So I would say that in the next few months you’re going to start seeing more uniformity as far as the products, the Sharp business solutions will little by little become one single company.
Cognitive Business News: Great, so when we look at products like the PA311D, and those types of 4K monitors will the products that are for a production and broadcast environment fall under business solutions, or will that be some kind of a separate category? Because I know that the way that they’re used are different and some of the characteristics that their products need to have been different.
If I’m doing electronic signage and I have a menu or something like that, I’m worried about lifetime and burn-in resistance and things like that, whereas I’m not so worried about: “does it fit into an Adobe color space” or something like that if I’m going to put this into my chain restaurant.
But on the other hand, when I’m looking at a production or post-production or broadcast type of monitor, then I’m worried about things in like the pitch and the response time. Tell me about how as the two companies as this joint venture evolves, how important is that space to the company and how do you see that part of the product line that evolving?
Horacio Alzate: Obviously it is an important niche for the company and obviously we’re going to continue with that. Unfortunately, we don’t have any newer products as of yet, but we’ll definitely continue with the product that focuses in that space. There might be a time gap between these products and the newer models that will come out, but definitely this is a space where NEC has always been strong, and we don’t want to abandon it either. And that’s the same philosophy that Sharp/NEC, or with the new company, has with this type of products.
Cognitive Business News: Whenever you have either or a joint venture or a merger it’s especially important to take time to get things right. Because otherwise you end up with, rather than creating synergies, you end up creating inefficiencies, you have overlapping products and you have a confused message, right? So it’s important to get that right, and I think that now, by having this one product, you can really focus on it while not getting distracted and then do the internal things, the infrastructure things that you need to do.
Horacio Alzate: Correct, and they’re being very careful, at all levels: executive level, mid-level, everywhere. I mean they’re being extremely careful on how we are going to be positioning everything because at the end of the day, we don’t want to position Sharp on one side and NEC on the other. At the end of the day, we need to make sure that we are positioning ourselves as one company.
Cognitive Business News: Got it. So can you give us an idea of some of the new technologies that are being integrated? Some things that we can expect to see? One thing that’s interesting to me, I find fascinating, I’m interfacing with you right now with the 4K monitor with an HDMI output, but now we’re seeing things like SDI and the Thunderbolt interface, which I find fascinating because it can be used for everything from displays to hard drives and to different things like that, and so are there, are there types of features or technologies? I mean, it’s so hard to keep up with, as we go from LCD to LED to OLED…what are some of the technologies that you’re excited about that you see the company really being able to have a strong offering in, especially when you talk about things that are either newer or coming down the road?
Horacio Alzate: Yes, so definitely, USB-C connectivity, which this model already has, but, you know, we’re introducing that USB-C connectivity among our newer products, making sure that all of them already have those type of ports, we’re also looking into gaming products, integrated camera, integrated into our desktops, not necessarily in the color critical space but in general, for our desktop lines.
Cognitive Business News: In general we are focusing on business, digital media, and so we don’t really get into too much gaming consumer products, even though sometimes some of the gaming machines are better than the engineering workstations you can buy, right? But I think that really, our focus is really on the enterprise side, but that’s so vast because, I mean, I was talking to you here about the color critical broadcast and cinema, post production monitors, but that can also go into things like Display Solutions, that can also go into things like just enterprise, corporate use, whether it’s for corporate boardrooms and things like that display, but I think that my question, what I really had in mind when I asked is really, was think along more of the types of monitors that would be used in whether it’s high end or low end, digital production.
Because, I mean the PA311D is a very high-end monitor, but sometimes people are doing production, but maybe they’re producing for social media or news, websites or something like that, and they’re not so concerned about the kind of color quality that you can get from this, that somebody who was doing something like cinema post production would be concerned about.
Horacio Alzate: Yes, so definitely, the color accuracy continues to be top of mind, basically making sure that these newer models, like maybe not the 31-inch size category, but maybe on the 27 or 24, definitely making sure that uniformity across the entire panel is guaranteed, making sure that it complies with DCI P3 or, Adobe RGB, so features like that, it’s like, where we want to maintain in our color space or professional categories, making sure that all color temperatures and, gamma situations and all brightness [specifications] are in line with what the industry is asking for in these types of categories; the brightness, it’s critical as well.
The color calibration software is also included with these types of products. Thunderbolt is definitely another feature that we would be looking at, at having on future releases. But like I said, we’re still in a process of analyzing and finding out, what are those critical features that we have got to maintain and that we need to add on those future models. So right now, we don’t have anything set in stone as what models we are going be carrying, and what sizes either, so definitely we’ll have something in the larger size, around the 32, 30 inch size categories, but for right now, I mean, nothing is definite yet.