Philips Bails On A/V

 Another consumer electronics giant  officially bailed out on the cut-throat business in audio and video products yesterday. Who’s next?

The bad news came from Royal Philips, the European biggie (based in the Netherlands) that dreamed up  the compact cassette, collaborated with Sony on the CD and is deep in the DVD/Blu-ray disc patent pool.  A couple years ago, Philips handed off the manufacturing and marketing of TV sets to the Japanese based Funai and yesterday announced the spin-off of Philips audio and accessories businesses too, in return for a healthy royalty for use of the brand name.

 A Funai executive suggested that the old Philips gang would still have input on new Philips product designs, but Funai hasn’t taken much of their advice lately. Its’ 2013 Philips-branded  TV line for the U.S. has no 3-D models, none with Philips cool “Ambilight” rear illumination  enhancement  and none in the ultra-wide screen 21:9 TV format which Philips introduced in Europe, that Vizio brought to the States and which LG showed at this CES in a very handsome, $700 computer monitor.

 Royal Philips ain’t giving up the rights to its bread and butter small appliance products, starting with lightbulbs (its new LED bulb is the sleekest I’ve seen), Norelco razors and Senseo coffee makers , nor with its consumer and professional health products, where the real money is.

Truth is, many of the big brands we know in consumer electronics – like RCA, Zenith and Magnavox - are ghosts in the machine. That is,   names  sold off to other makers to slap on their products. Not that some good can’t come out of these deals. At this CES, the “most trusted" RCA brand  (now controlled by Technicolor, and licensed to various makers) showed off some innovative products, including an 8-inch Android tablet (made by Digital Stream) that doubles as a TV set with both ATSC and “Dyle” Mobile DTV tuners built-in!

  Will more old school companies bail on the dog-eat-dog television and audio businesses? In its’ big CES presentation, Panasonic put most focus on solar panels, batteries for electric cars,  health diagnostic gear and such.  Sony also seems to be shifting gears,  making  noises in recent months about outsourcing  manufacturing and  spinning-off  unprofitable divisions.