Sony Corp. said it will launch an ultra-thin flat TV in December, the world's first television based on organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology into an $82 billion market dominated by LCD and plasma models.
OLED panels are energy efficient, make thin and light displays. They offer crisp pictures and have strength in showing fast-moving images, suitable for watching sports events and action movies, but size is proving a limitation.
Offering an innovative product to prop up its brand image is important for Sony, whose leading position in portable music players has long since been lost to Apple Inc's iPod.
The Tokyo-based electronics maker is also struggling in the video game market, which it had dominated for about a decade since the mid-1990s, with its PlayStation 3 console lagging far behind Nintendo Co Ltd's Wii in sales.
According to Sony President Ryoji Chubachi at a news conference at its Tokyo headquarters, "Some people have said attractive products are slow to come at Sony despite its technolgical strength. I want this world's first OLED TV to be the symbol of the revival of Sony's technological prowess. I want this to be the flag under which we charge forwards to turn the fortunes around," he said.
Sony, the world's No.2 liquid crystal display TV maker behind Samsung Electronics Co, expects the 11-inch OLED TV with a thickness of 3 mm to sell for 200,000 yen ($1,740), almost as high as retail prices of some of its own 40-inch LCD models.
NO OVERNIGHT SUCCESS
It is technologically difficult at the moment to make larger panels, limiting the appeal of the otherwise promising next-generation television.
Panasonic maker Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd is offering 103-inch plasma TVs, while the main battle ground for LCD TV makers are moving up to the 40-inch class market from the 30-inch class category.
An 11-inch panel is smaller than regular copier paper used in office.
Sony Executive Deputy President Katsumi Ihara told reporters, "I don't think OLED TVs will replace LCD TVs overnight. But I do believe this is a type of technology with very high potential, something that will come after LCD TVs,"
Ihara said he set the 200,000 yen price tag without paying much attention to profitability, suggesting Sony will make a loss for each set it sells at least in the initial stage.
The new TV is set to go on sale in Japan on Dec. 1, while overseas launches have yet to be decided.
It has a life span of about 30,000 hours of viewing, which is about half of Sony's LCD TVs, but long enough to allow eight hours of daily use for 10 years.
Monthly production will come to just 2,000 units. In comparison, Sony plans to sell 10 million units of LCD TVs in the year to next March.
Following the announcement of the new TV, shares in Sony closed up 1.4 percent at 5,650 yen, outperforming the Tokyo stock market's electrical machinery index, which fell 0.13 percent.