Maybe Panasonic doesn't care about consumer tech anymore

The company didn't even bother to bring a new TV to CES 2017. Instead, execs stressed the importance of its non-consumer business.

Ian Sherr
Ian Sherr Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. At CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
2 min read

Quick word association ...

Samsung: Phones.

Dell: PCs.

Apple : iPhones.

Panasonic: ?

That's where the Japanese electronics company has some work to do.

Part of the problem is that Panasonic has its hands in pretty much everything. But if you're expecting things to change this year, don't hold your breath.

During a press conference here at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Panasonic showed off a professional-level camera called the GH5, a new toaster oven and a home audio line of speakers, a turntable and an audio amplifier. Not exactly a stunning lineup. Panasonic didn't even announce a new TV.

It's probably no surprise that the message coming from Panasonic executives was how important its other businesses are. Consumer electronics, the company says, is just a part of what it does.

"We have exponentially expanded our non-consumer business," said Joseph Taylor, chairman and CEO of Panasonic's North American arm.

Panasonic touted a partnership with the city of Denver to build signs and test new types of electric grids. The company talked about its battery manufacturing line in Tesla's Gigafactory, and showed off projectors used during the Olympics in Rio. Panasonic also crowed about technology developed with Facebook to store data, now being used by the US Department of Homeland Security.


Joseph Taylor, chairman and CEO of Panasonic's North American arm, talks up the company's projects beyond consumer electronics.


"Panasonic has evolved to be much more than a company that makes consumer electronics products," said Lauren Sallata, Panasonic America's vice president of business marketing.

All of this isn't much of a surprise if you've been following Panasonic's moves lately. One of the biggest headlines from the company last year was about it bowing out of an entire segment of the TV industry.

Instead, the company has hoped to switch focus to "smart" technology, though that industry is already led by companies you know a lot more about, like Amazon, Google and Apple. Still, Panasonic has tried to grab attention with efforts like a smart home prototype.

What Panasonic announced at CES may not even matter much.

Cameras and computers are such an insignificant part of Panasonic's portfolio, for example, that they're lumped in with its business selling aircraft entertainment systems and business telephones. Together, all these things represented 14 percent of Panasonic's sales, according to its 2016 annual report. By comparison, automotive and appliances together make up more than half the company's business.

All the cool new gadgets at CES 2017

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A point Panasonic plans to discuss throughout the show: how its experience in the consumer electronics market will help its other businesses succeed. For example, Panasonic said it's adding Google's Android software, which typically powers phones and tablets, into its car-infotainment systems. Panasonic said Android will help make its products more secure and consumer friendly, though it didn't discuss details.

The company's scheduled hour-long press conference even ended early, perhaps the most telling sign Panasonic doesn't have much to offer the at this year's show.

Stay with CNET for complete CES 2017 coverage.