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PROLIFIC PHILIPS GROUP SHOWS CONSUMING FOCUS

After a year of sweeping talented executives away from competing companies and setting the stage for strongly anticipated success, Philips Consumer Communications doesn’t blink when it says it expects to be one of the top three handset providers by 2000.

The Netherlands-based electronics giant was awakened last year when the swelling wireless communications industry tapped it on the shoulder.

It saw a global market, of which it wanted a portion. But that meant coming in behind the world’s most powerful terminal manufacturers.

How to do it and be a success? Philips looked at the assets it currently held: it manufactures chips, it builds the plastic cases for phones, it is the largest global supplier of thin liquid crystal displays, it currently builds telephone devices, it is experienced in battery management, it has enormous distribution channels, design engineers, and existing manufacturing bases.

The company had just about everything it needed, except a consuming focus. That came in 1996, when Philips created the Consumer Communications group, which took up headquarters in Le Mans, France. Former Motorola Inc. executive, Mike McTighe heads the group. He lured Osmo Hautanen away from Nokia Corp., after 18 years with the company, to lead the Dallas-based Americas group. And the hiring continues.

Under all that steam, Philips Consumer has launched more than 3,000 new products since January 1996, the company claims.

Its newest wireless phone is the three-ounce Genie, which has a patented microphone, voice dialing and is “the smallest, lightest GSM phone in the world today,” Philips says.

Global System for Mobile communications technology is used extensively in Europe, where Philips is a well-known brand. In the United States, Philips products are more readily known under the Magnavox or Norelco brand.

The Genie has a pop-out microphone at the base of the handset that answers and ends calls. The product was brought to market after seven months of development, the company said.

Philips Consumer recently signed a global distribution agreement with Brightpoint Inc. for the distribution of Philips products through Europe, Asia and North and South America. Philips Consumer Communications is part of Philips Electronics North America Corp., which reported revenue of more than $8 billion in 1996 and has 30,000 employees.

Philips Consumer has established a facility in Fremont, Calif., for manufacturing, research and development and engineering.

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