Mitsubishi Consumer Electronics America, which in September moved its headquarters to Irvine from Georgia, has dropped its line of run-of-the-mill color televisions and now concentrates solely on large-screen, projection TVs.
Although the mammoth televisions, with screens ranging from a manageable 50 inches to a block-out-the-sun 80 inches, make up only 1% of the 25 million televisions sold in the U.S. annually, their average price tag of $2,000 makes them a lucrative niche.
The launch of high-definition television (HDTV) this month brings new focus on Mitsubishi's line of 16 projection televisions, seven of which can show high-definition programming.
Mitsubishi's line of HDTVs demonstrates how the new format will pose a new set of choices to consumers that will make picking a television as complicated as deciding on a long-distance telephone carrier.
Five of Mitsubishi's seven HDTVs come in the squarish format used by traditional television programming, even though HDTV programming comes in the elongated format similar to movies.
That means that when an HDTV program comes on, only a portion of the screen will be used, similar to the letterbox format sometimes used when film studios do not change the image to suit the television's dimensions. The alternative, used by Mitsubishi's other two HDTV sets, gives the screen the more movie-like aspect ratio of 16 to 9, which means that regular television programming uses only part of the screen.
"People will decide which one they like, and they're going to vote with their wallets," said Robert Perry, director of marketing for Mitsubishi.
In addition to the screen's aspect ratio, customers will face a dizzying array of other choices: digital television or high-definition television, integrated or separate high-definition receivers, the technical specifications of each system, and the less easily measured qualities of which picture looks best.
Then, of course, there's deciding who gets the remote.
Jonathan Gaw covers technology and electronic commerce for The Times. He can be reached at (714) 966-7818 and at email@example.com.