Pioneer Unveils New Plan, Alliance

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Japanese consumer-electronics giant Pioneer Electronics
Corp. breathed new life into itself last week, with a new image campaign and a wide-scale
consortium alliance.

Early last week, Pioneer unveiled a new corporate logo at a
press conference in Long Beach, Calif., at which Pioneer president Kaneo Ito told
reporters that the logo "is a manifestation of the strategic and operational changes
that we've put in place."

Ito said it will take Pioneer two years to complete the
changeover to the new design; the first products with the new logo will be introduced in
September, followed by a global advertising campaign in October.

Paul Dempsey, senior vice president of sales and marketing
at Pioneer New Media Technologies, said the strength of the Pioneer brand will help the
company to distribute its digital-cable set-tops more widely once they're sold at
retail.

"Pioneer is the only Japanese company in the cable
market under its own brand name," he said.

He added that with Pioneer's consumer-electronics
products, the company already has distribution relationships with retailers. That's
an advantage over cable set-top incumbents like General Instrument Corp. and
Scientific-Atlanta Inc., he said.

Separately, Pioneer joined a consortium with C-Cube
Microsystems, Divicom Inc. and French cable operator Canal Plus to produce a interoperable
digital-TV system.

The arrangement, described by the companies as a
"strategic alliance," involves the development of an interoperable, end-to-end
digital system for applications like interactive program guides, Web browsing,
video-on-demand, network games, home banking, online shopping and data downloads.

The group plans to anchor the effort using existing
standards.

Part of the project includes adapting Canal Plus'
"MediaHighway" middleware and "Mediaguard" conditional-access systems
for use in the U.S. marketplace, executives said, using C-Cube's chips and
Divicom's headend gear. Pioneer will market the system in the United States.

Not dismissive of U.S. efforts, the companies plan to
comply with the ongoing OpenCable standard and to help form standards for software and
applications interoperability.

Tom Haga, president of Pioneer New Media Technologies,
described the effort as an extension of the work that the manufacturer has already logged
for Time Warner Cable's "Pegasus" set-top effort.

"Pioneer is committed to supporting the Pegasus Phase
I platform and the OpenCable platform as it evolves," Haga said in a prepared
statement. At the same time, he added, "The only way to ensure interoperability and
an open platform is to give the industry a choice, and this alliance and the solution that
it offers do just that."

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