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December 30, 2007

2008 To Be The Beginning Of The End For Plasma TV?

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LCD To Beat Plasma Into The Ground In 2008?

With a whole lot of HDTV-related corporate reorganizing going on across the globe, most of it in the past month, and rumors of long awaited new technologies about to be unveiled, we're wondering if 2008 is the beginning of the end for plasma televisions.

Prices for LCD's have dropped drastically this year leading research firm iSuppli to predict a 31.9% compound growth rate in the LCD market into 2011. While 41.4 million LCD's were shipped in 2006, this would mean that by 2011 we'll see 165.3 million units shipped. Respective revenues would increase from $47.8 billion in 2006 to $116 billion in 2011. On the other hand, while shipments of plasma televisions will increase from 9.3 million units in 2006 to 19.3 million units in 2001, revenues will actually decrease from $15.6 billion to $14 billion over the same period. These numbers would leave plasma holding only 10.4% of industry shipments and 10.7% of industry revenue in 2011.

Corporate collaborations and corporate reorganizations, mainly in the past month, have further reinforced the belief that LCD TV's will rule the industry in the next few years.

Japanese electronics rivals have teamed up in an LCD TV-based deal that will see Toshiba purchase about 40% of its LCD panels from Sharp, mainly in screen sizes 32 inches and larger, by 2010, while Sharp will purchase about 50% of its semiconductors to be used in LCD's from Toshiba. The companies hope this will work to reduce manufacturing costs as makers struggle to keep up with rapidly dropping television prices.

Hitachi, Canon, and Matsushita have also reached an LCD-based cooperative agreement that will see the companies "merge their strengths to accelerate the development of cutting-edge display technologies and expand their scope of application". Hitachi hopes the alliance will rapidly advance the development of cutting-edge liquid crystal technologies beyond their renowned IPS technology that produces some of the best colors and widest viewing angles currently available on the LCD market.

By acquiring shares in Hitachi subsidiary, Hitachi Displays, Canon will establish a stable supply of LCD displays which the company hopes will improve its product development capabilities by shortening development times and enhancing product features. Canon also hopes that the alliance with Hitachi will speed up the companies current work on OLED displays (Canon OLED TV at CES 2009?).

Matsushita, maker of Panasonic plasma TV's, will apparently continue to concentrate on the plasma market, although they are building a $2.7 billion dollar LCD plant as part of another deal. Matsushita's main take in the partnership, besides shares in Hitachi Displays, is the integration of Hitachi's IPS technology into Panasonic plasma TV's. With some of the advanced panel features that would enable, we could see Panasonic begin to dominate the plasma market in the coming years. They would also secure a steady supply of flat-panel displays by building a next-generation plant at IPS Alpha, which could be a possible manufacturing center of OLED displays.

Besides the mainly LCD-based corporate alliances announced lately, there have also been some moves out of markets altogether, made in part to focus on LCD production and technology development. Sony just announced a couple of days back that they will no longer be producing rear projection sets, instead focusing on the development of LCD's and OLED's. Seiko Epson made a similar announcement earlier this month as did Hitachi, which moved out of the rear projection North American market earlier this year. Rear projection sets were once thought to be a huge competitor to LCD and plasma sets in the larger screen sizes, but as prices for flat screens rapidly drop, consumers are making the move away from the boxy, cumbersome RPTV's in favor of aesthetic minimalism. Fujitsu have also made a hasty exit from the plasma business to focus on "other categories of product and equipment".

Further fueling the rise of the LCD TV is the coming digital TV transition. Analog sets without digital set-top boxes will be rendered useless in early 2009 as regulators switch from analog to digital signals to free up bandwidth spectrum. This, along with a lack of awareness about what you'll really need to watch TV in 2009, has fueled HDTV sales to the point that the Consumer Electronics Association now estimates that 50% of US households have a digital TV. As LCD prices drop like a rock, we'd imagine that a very high percentage of this 50% is made up of LCD sets.

Maybe I'm completely wrong though. Maybe all the LCD focus as of late isn't a sign that 2008 will be the beginning of the end for plasma. January's CES conference is rumored to be the grounds for the debuting of another Pioneer Kuro plasma line, the elusive laser TV, at least one more OLED TV prototype, and a favorite LCD competitor that hasn't really made it to the starting line in over 20 years, the SED TV. With all these new technologies apparently about to hit the scene, maybe LCD and plasma are about to become the old guard of television and our focus should be elsewhere.

I doubt it, my bets are on LCD...until the day OLED's are mass produced at a reasonable price.

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Posted by Justin Davey at December 30, 2007 9:21 AM

Recent Comments

As long as there are people who choose contrast and color accuracy over unrealistic colors and crushed blacks there will be a market for plasmas.

Sure, I don't expect them to make up the majority of the market, but videophiles will always be drawn to them.


Posted by: Ben Drawbaugh at December 30, 2007 6:58 PM

I'm with you on LCD for the foreseeable future. Despite rumors, SED is in a coma and OLED is not ready for the real world yet.


Posted by: OLED TV Fan at December 30, 2007 4:03 PM
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