Although its business projectors are better known than its home cinema models, Epson is experiencing rapid growth in the residential market. Valerie Riffaud, projectors senior business manager at Epson Europe, talks to Adrian Pennington about the company's residential offering - and how custom installers can add value
Q: How would you characterise Epson's approach to the home cinema market?
A: This is a smaller segment than our business portfolio but nonetheless of vital importance to us since it is growing rapidly. Whereas a few years ago the market was characterised by affluent early adopters who had a dedicated entertainment or viewing room, now many more consumers are attracted to home cinema as the content and the technology permits a range of exciting options. It has also come within the budgets of more people.
Q: How are you working with distributors and custom installers?
A: We found that there were quite a lot of old-fashioned ideas in the market about projection such as the necessity to have a complete blackout room, or that lamps wouldn't last longer than a month. We work with a range of dedicated specialist installers who know the market and can provide the education that it needs to open the market up.
Q: What are your chief product lines?
A: Broadly we offer a combination product which includes a DVD player and speakers as an integrated plug and play for the family market at a resolution of 540p. Next up is a 720p product which suits those interested in watching live sports on a big screen at a high resolution. Where the market is really taking off is in HD 1080p. This is because content from broadcast to packaged Blu-ray and gaming is increasingly full HD. The knowledge that the consumer has about HD has also grown - they are requesting 1080p.
Specifically we offer four products in the range - at the higher end this includes the EH-TW5500 which has the highest contrast ratio on the market at 200,000:1. The 1080p market has grown nearly 40% year on year and is estimated to grow another 50% this year largely because the World Cup provides a fantastic opportunity to showcase home cinema capabilities.
Q: How can custom installers add value to these products?
A: Our home cinema specialists are really knowledgeable. They bring support for installation projects into homes which can often be complex and involving masking of equipment and wires so that it fits the dÈcor to ensuring that the projection system talks seamlessly and reliably with all audio and hi-fi systems, with wi-fi if appropriate and with the source content provider or Blu-ray device. Customers will respect a custom installer who understands what they need and can deliver on that promise - and what's more who deliver strong after-sales service.
Q: Are you developing a stereo 3D option?
A: 3D is something we are working on. The fact is that 3D is a very new technology and integration into product should be planned carefully. Epson is highly end-user and usability focused but today there are several different formats, different glasses requirements which requires a lot of understanding from a custom install let alone an end user perspective. We are working on a 3D-capable product for the mid-term but we want to be sure that we release one fully capable of supporting all formats and solutions and not just launch into the market for the sake of it.
Q: Are there any technology trends you have spotted?
A: The emergence of high-spec, high quality imaging in small and lightweight projectors has the potential to revolutionise the market. Even in Paris where there are many small apartments we can now intrigue customers with the real possibility of having a projection system in rooms as small as 20sqm. You don't need to project from 500 metres away to deliver high brightness, high resolution onto large screens.