To paraphrase "Where have all the flowers gone," where have all the rear projection TVs gone? And it begs the question, "Is the demise of the rear projection TV on the horizon? Its been an interesting week with television announcements from several companies. While flat-panel TVs from Hitachi and Toshiba are proliferationg across product lines, rear projection models from those companies are disappearing. In fact, both Hitachi and Toshiba have dropped rear projection TVs from their line-up completely in favor of those sleek and svelt LCD and plasma HDTVs. Now, don't get me wrong, I love all types of TV displays, but I just wonder the wisdom of completely emliminating rear pros from a TV line. Rear projection TVs have been around for many years, and have been the anchor for all large-screen TV lines. Rear projection TVs have been with both companies since rear pros first introduction.
According to both Hitachi and Toshiba, it's a response to what the customer wants. They claim that the customer wants only flat, and nothing else. Although, many of these customers put the TV on a stand or in a cabinet, which really negates the whole point of a flat-panel display. A flat-panel is meant to be placed on the wall -- much like a prized painting -- not on a base. And, in terms of cost-savings for large-screens, rear projection TVs are certainly a better value for the consumer. You get more bang for buck with a rear projection TV than you can with flat-panel. Yes, both LCD and plasma have moved into larger screen sizes, but at what cost, and how much more does 1080p add to the flat-panel price tag? Of course, it begs the question, is there more profit in flat-panels than rear projection? I don't know.
I also received this sad news yesterday regarding rear projection TVs. MicroDisplay Corporation announced on June 28 that it will be exiting the projection TV business. According to a company spokesman, "We knew that we were entering a mature, competitive market, and that we had a narrow window in which to succeed. We developed a TV with a unique display technology, excellent picture quality and a low cost, and we saw an opportunity. Unfortunately, the recent uncertainty in the TV industry, highlighted by particularly slow sales in May, made it virtually impossible to introduce a new type of projection TV at this time." MicroDisplay Corporation will close its Fremont, CA office in mid July.
So, within the span of a week, three companies have left the rear projection TV business. This essential leaves Sony, Samsung, Mitsubishi, JVC, and Panasonic to offer rear projection TV models that rival or exceed their flat-panel brethren. I've always felt that if you want a large-screen TV (over 50-inches), then a rear projection TV is the way to go. Rear projection TVs. And, between Texas Instruments (TI)'s DLP technology and Sony's SXRD, there's been a lot of innovation recently, and more on the horizon. All 2007 microdisplays are slimmer than in years past, and several DLP sets have migrated to LED illumination instead of lamps. In January 2008, Mitsubishi will offer their first laser-based DLP HDTV. And, this innovation will continue.
Of course, it begs question for Hitachi, Toshiba, and others (LG) who have left the rear projection TV business, do they have other display technologies in the wings to replace rear projection? For Toshiba, it could be SED. There were reports coming out of Japan this week about Toshiba streamlining SED production costs to rival LCD or plasma TVs. If so, SED may be back on track. Toshiba also indicated at their press conference yesterday that there would be a "major announcement" at CEDIA this coming September. Could it be SED? I hope so. As far as Hitachi is concerned, I don't know what they could do next. Of course, there is the persistant rumor that they could exit the TV business in a few years. If they keep trimming down their TV lines, it's a distinct possibility.