Sony says no more to rear-projection TV market, OLED on the way

With the strong growth in LCD and plasma HDTVs, the rear-projection TV that once ruled the big screen realm is quickly heading the way of the Dodo.

Sony announced today that it will withdraw from the rear-projection TV market. Sony already reduced its rear-projection TV sales target by 43% to 400,000 units for the year.

The company does not carry digital light projection (DLP) TVs, which dominate the rear-projection market.  Two additional 60" and 70" XBR SXRD models were embargoed for launch at CES 2008 next week, though the company claims prototypes will face cancellation.

Sony isn’t the first major maker of TVs to pull out of the rear-projection market.  With prices falling for comparably sized plasma and LCD screen HDTVs, rear-projection set makers found it hard to compete for consumers dollars in 2007. Seiko Epson stopped production of its rear-projection TVs earlier this month; Hitachi withdrew from the rear-projection market earlier this year as well.

All three companies planned to take on Texas Instruments' DLP technology with alternatives like 3LCD and SXRD.  However, these alternatives were inferior to DLP either in cost or marketshare, and spent the majority of their short lives playing catch-up. 

Sony will stop its rear-projection TV production at three plants in February.  The company still plans to announce SXRD front-projection units, including the anticipated WPL-VW40.

Reuters speculates plasma TV will be the next technology on the chopping block with TV makers rushing towards OLED panels and larger LCD panels in 2008. Earlier this year Sony exited the plasma TV market; the company is placing all its eggs into the LCD and OLED basket.

Yet Sony does have one unplayed ace.  After national rival Toshiba exited from the OLED market earlier this month, Sony became the only company in the world with working large-screen OLED displays. 

Anyone at Texas Instruments will tell you: being first has its benefits.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson
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