Originally, I had planned to write about set-top boxes and other product areas of DTV this week. However, I think that as 2007 comes to a close, we have to talk about LCD displays as they are rapidly becoming the display of choice for virtually all CE manufacturers worldwide. This is because the consumer wants a flat-panel TV, and more and more people are choosing LCD as the flat-panel display of choice. And, this past week alone, there were several stories that related to the continued rise of LCDs.
A key story this week was from Sony. Sony announced that it is abandonding the rear projection TV business completely. It seems like only a few years ago that I was in the SXRD plant in Pittsburgh, PA watching the first models come off the assembly line. This version of LCoS was always impressive, but the consumer wants flat. So, Sony will discontinue the manufacture of rear projection TVs in favor of LCD TVs and OLED (organic light-emitting diode) TVs. Sony follows in the footsteps of Hitachi, Toshiba, JVC, and etc as manufacturers stop producing rear pro models. Right now, there are only two manufacturers left of rear projection HDTVs " Mitsubishi and Samsung. Both manufacturers are in the DLP camp.
At the same time this week, Toshiba and Sharp have formed an alliance. Under the pact, Toshiba will procure liquid crystal display (LCD) panels from a 380 billion yen ($3.4 billion) factory being built by Sharp in western Japan, and then use them in LCD TVs larger than 32 inches to be sold under its own brand. Sharp, in turn, will buy semiconductors from Toshiba for use in its own LCD TVs. Earlier this year, Toshiba had dropped all of its rear projection TVs, and recently announced that it would not be producing any OLED sets in the 2009/10 timeframe.
Concurrently with the Toshiba/Sharp partnership, Matsushita (Panasonic), Hitachi Ltd, and Canon Inc announced an alliance in flat panel displays. Under this agreement, Matsushita and Canon will each take a 24.9 percent stake in Hitachi Displays Ltd, a wholly owned unit of Hitachi that makes liquid crystal displays and is developing OLED technology. Matsushita will also take a controlling stake in IPS Alpha Technology, an LCD joint venture between Toshiba Corp, Hitachi and Matsushita, which until now has focused its investment on plasma display technology for flat TVs.
Global LCD TV sales will likely grow nearly 50 percent to $96 billion by 2011 at the clear expense of other display technologies. On the other hand, flat-panel rival plasma TV demand is expected to shrink 1 percent to $15.7 billion yen over the same time period, according to research firm DisplaySearch. Plasma sales could shrink even further as LCD makes further inroads.