If you're all broken up about Pioneer's seeming exit of the plasma business, take heart. Pioneer Executive Vice President Russ Johnston claims Pioneer's plans aren't to abandon Kuro-quality plasma displays in any way. The move to an outside manufacturer (Matsushita, parent company of Panasonic) is designed to cut cost in plasma production, but Pioneer still plans to maintain its premium edge over competitors. "The number-one goal is to make sure we can maintain our differentiation," said Russ, "and specifically our Kuro difference in the marketplace." Apparently Pioneer will be still be responsible for the video circuit and processing, the color filter strategy and other such secret sauce, and the company is confident Matsushita can step up to the Pioneer level of panel production -- even if it might involve sharing a few trade secrets along the way. Apparently Matsushita is slated to start providing the modules by 2009.

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