With August winding down and Labor Day only a couple of weeks away, there's not a lot of news on the Digital TV front right now. Obviously, this will pick-up in mid-September at C.E.D.I.A. as we hear more about Blu-ray Disc, 1080p plasma displays, and version 1.3 of HDMI. Right now, however, all of the news seems to be centered on LCD displays. The biggest LCD news this week came from Samsung as it has developed the industry's first 70-inch LCD panel that supports HDTV. Up until now, Sharp had the largest LCD HDTV at 65-in. Samsung's latest LCD panel features full HD resolution (1920 by 1080 pixels) and a conical viewing angle of 180 degrees. In addition, the panel's video signal is reproduced at 120 Hz, compared to a 60-Hz signal for conventional full HD LCD panels, enabling clearer reproduction of fast-moving video images. The new LCD also delivers 600 nit brightness and a contrast ratio of 2,000:1, supporting 1.07 billion colors.
We have news on falling LCD prices. Prices in most LCD TV size categories fell at double-digit levels, with 30 in. and larger LCD TVs accounting for most of the LCD TV market for the first time, rising from 46 percent the first quarter to 53 percent the second quarter. 40-in. through 47in. LCD TVs enjoyed the fastest growth, up 103 percent. On the other hand, unit shipments rose 135 percent year-over-year and 28 percent quarter-to-quarter to 9.4 million units during the second quarter of 2006. In fact, display supplier Syntax-Brillian reported record sales of $59.8 million for the fourth fiscal 2006 quarter that ended June 30, up a whooping 162 percent from $22.8 million in the year-ago quarter. Although, even with all of those sales, the company still reported a net loss was $5.5 million. I guess that it's hard to slash prices and make money at the same time.
Of course the most surprising news reported this week is that Royal Philips Electronics NV is talking to several industrial groups and private equity companies about a possible sale of its 33 percent stake in flat panel display maker LG.Philips LCD Co., which can't be finalized till mid-2007. This is especially surprising since it holds the number one unit share position in North America, and number two unit share position in Europe according to DisplaySearch. Presumably, this proposed sale is tied to its losses Philips has incurred in the joint venture with LG, which are tied to falling prices. Earlier, this month, Royal Philips had sold off its Semiconductor business to a consortium of equity partners.
Changing gears, let's talk about C.E.D.I.A. for a moment. Besides 1080p plasma displays, which I expect will be on display from several companies. I expect that there will be a lot of talk about HDMI at the show. While Sony's PlayStation3 is supposed to be the first consumer product including HDMI 1.3, there could be others by year-end as well. In fact, I will be meeting with Silicon Image at the show to get the lowdown on version 1.3, and they've promised a technical paper to discuss it in detail. I also expect to publish a paper from Philips on ESD protection for HDMI 1.3 in the coming weeks as well. Although, my advice is that if you want a product with HDMI 1.3, you'll have to realistically wait till mid-2007 for it to be readily available. Stay tuned!