The specialist German photographic brand will follow an aggressive pricing policy to compete in the local market Buoyed by Asia's strong consumer electronics market, former specialist professional camera maker Rollei is taking the plunge into the highly competitive liquid crystal display (LCD) television market. The 85-year-old German firm is slated to unveil its new line of low-cost, South Korean-made 32- and 40-inch LCD TV models in Hong Kong in December. Oliver Fix, managing director at Rollei, said the move was 'a natural progression' for the company, which started expanding its consumer electronics business in 2001 as global demand for traditional analogue digital cameras declined sharply. 'Our core competence remains imaging,' Mr Fix said, noting that Rollei catered to consumers who took, processed and showed digital images. 'This is not such a big step for us.' Rollei is the first among the major German specialist photographic brands including Leica, Hasselblad and Carl Zeiss to venture deep into the home entertainment arena, where large Asian players like Samsung Electronics and Sony dominate. Only Rollei and Carl Zeiss, which sells high-quality lenses to top-tier makers of digital cameras and mobile phones, have established a successful transition strategy to compete in the digital electronics market. 'We see the development of digital consumer products as an opportunity to extend our business into areas where Rollei has not been before,' Mr Fix said. '[For the LCD TV products] Asia is our test market before we launch in Europe.' With longstanding distribution partners Jebsen & Co handling sales and marketing in Asia, Mr Fix said the LCD TV venture was expected to first gain a solid footing in the region through strong outposts in the mainland and Hong Kong. Marketing services firm GfK Asia has estimated LCD TV sales in Hong Kong will reach 110,000 units this year, while those on the mainland are forecast to reach 340,000 units. GfK Asia analyst Jeffrey Neoh said the increase in the range of models and screen sizes available helped boost LCD TV demand in Hong Kong. Although Sharp has the widest range of LCD TVs on the market, strong competition has come from other brands including Sony, United States-based Syntax, European giant Philips and mainland TV maker Skyworth Digital. Stephen Chan, general manager at Jebsen's photo, imaging and optical division in Hong Kong, said Rollei would pursue 'an aggressive pricing policy' of as much as 10 per cent off the local market's average selling price for LCD TVs. Mr Chan said positive market feedback for Rollei's existing line of digital cameras, digital audio players and portable media players augured well for its new LCD TV product family. Rollei's 46-inch LCD TV model has been scheduled for launch next quarter. But Mr Chan said it was Rollei's intention to compete in the mid-market, not the high end, of the LCD TV business. That would allow Rollei to steer clear of Canon, which earlier this month announced its plan to compete against LCD and plasma display makers with its new line of high-definition TVs based on surface-conduction electron-emitter display panels. 'In the next five to 10 years, there will be other areas where we will play,' Mr Fix said. 'Rollei will play an important role in the home entertainment market.' Next year Rollei plans to launch an all-in-one home entertainment device - a 'black box' almost the size of an A4 piece of paper, with two candle-sized speakers. This system combines a DVD recorder and player, stereo hi-fi, surround sound and TV broadcast recorder functions. Mr Fix said Rollei's latest portable media player, which plays audio and video files with digital camera function, may be integrated with a Global Positioning System (GPS) feature. That would enable Rollei to compete with Pioneer in the fast-growing in-vehicle GPS navigation systems.