Print 27 comment(s) - last by Oregonian2.. on Feb 21 at 6:06 PM

Sony bets $200 million on large screen OLED TVs

LCD TV sales are booming thanks to the digital transition in the United States. With incredible adoption rates, prices are plumetting and LCD manufacturers are ramping up production to meet consumer demands.

Sony is looking to the future of the thin TV segment and announced today it will spend $200 million on technology needed to develop medium to large size OLED panels. In October of 2007, Sony was first to market with an OLED TV.

Typical LCD substrate factories run billions of dollars; Samsung and Sony poured more than $2 billion into their 7th generation LCD facility capable of producing 50,000 panels per month.  OLED carries a considerably lower production cost, though only a few companies worldwide possess the intellectual property and design patents to build OLED monitors and televisions.

The Sony XEL-1 was a small TV with a screen size of 11-inches and it sported a super thin profile of only 3mm thick. The other promises OLED panels give to TV fans are brighter colors and less power consumption thanks to no need for a backlight.

The catch with the Sony XEL-1 was the price; the tiny TV set retailed for around $1,700. In addition to the high cost Sony was only able to produce about 2,000 of the TVs each month because of the difficult and initial costly manufacturing process.

However, Sony's initial OLED TVs will not remain ultra-expensive forever. With a lower cost of production than LCD and cheaper transportation costs, OLED displays will eventually replace LCD the way LCD replaced CRT. 

Other large LCD TV makers are also looking to get into production of larger OLED TVs. Samsung unveiled a 31-inch OLED TV at CES 2008. Toshiba had promised to bring large screen OLED TVs to market, then had a change of heart and announced it would not be bringing OLED TVs of larger screen sizes to market after all.

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new technology...
By Oregonian2 on 2/19/2008 2:40:46 PM , Rating: 1
Just a general observation that LCD's were supposed to be replacing CRT's "any day now" for probably at least ten years before they actually started to. It either needs to be cheaper than the current technology or so much better that it's worth the price premium -- and that's sometimes hard to do when the current technology is being made in very high volumes and has multiple companies spending a lot of money to stay ahead (both price and performance) of those threats -- and they've the big production-funded budgets to do it.

It's interesting that the writeup above first says that the OLED is so much cheaper to produce than LCD's and then a couple paragraphs later when talking about the Sony spendy units that the technology to make them is so expensive and difficult. I'd assume the seemingly contradictory statements have to do with OLEDs not beeing "tooled" for mass production and probably being made on prototype lines, but still a bit confusing.

RE: new technology...
By KristopherKubicki on 2/19/2008 2:45:55 PM , Rating: 5
Well, keep in mind worldwide output for OLED monitors and TVs is just a few thousand units per month (LCD output, by contrast, is in the millions per month).

OLED is insanely easy to manufacture compared to growing LCD substrates. And its easy to transport, easier to cut up -- heck just about everything is easy once you get past the initial barrier of entry. And even then, it isn't that bad outside of the fact that there are only a few licenses for it right now.

Sony, in my opinion, is playing their cards right here. Sort of funny how quickly they're turning back into a powerhouse.

RE: new technology...
By spluurfg on 2/19/2008 2:52:36 PM , Rating: 5
Indeed... Sony has been very gutsy with capital investment, in the days where that seems to be the number one thing that is hammering a lot of other technology companies (e.g. Fujitsu, Motorola, Samsung divesting themselves of their chip/fabrication divisions). Sony also plunked down significant sums for CMOS digital camera sensor fabs, and they are a serious player for CCD sensors. And it's not like it's the easiest markets for raising cash. If Sony can pull off all of these bets then several years down the line they might end up being the Samsung of a couple years ago -- i.e. Sony would be Sony again.

RE: new technology...
By lexluthermiester on 2/19/2008 2:58:48 PM , Rating: 5
Couldn't agree with you more. Sony is fast becoming a golden company again. I had a great distaste for the PS1[long story...], but I admire them for the PS2 and PSP[though I love my GC and DS]. The mini-disc was a great idea that Sony needed to license out better[MD would have stomped IOMegas' ZIP]. The PS3 just simply kicks a**[once again LOVE my Wii]. Nintendo and Sony are in a position to hand MS its hat. I really wish they would... But thats another topic...

If Sony and the other holders of OLED tech do the marketing and licensing right, OLED will[and needs to] replace LCD as the primary form of flat panel display.

OK, there's my $0.02 worth...

RE: new technology...
By defter on 2/20/08, Rating: 0
RE: new technology...
By Oregonian2 on 2/21/2008 6:06:27 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, I did mention the possibility of production issues in my last paragraph if you look at it again. But there still is a bit of conflict between your statements of it being insanely easy to make OLED displays and the article's line:

Sony was only able to produce about 2,000 of the TVs each month because of the difficult and initial costly manufacturing process.

That insanely easy process seems to be "difficult" as well.

P.S. - And the problem with OLEDs all along has been the lifetimes of the blue ones where previous ones had very short lifetimes making them only appropriate for applications where they're not on for long periods of time daily like TV applications do. Still TBD if they've really solved that problem in my mind.

RE: new technology...
By masher2 on 2/19/2008 3:09:10 PM , Rating: 2
It's interesting that the writeup above first says that the OLED is so much cheaper to produce than LCD's and then a couple paragraphs later when talking about the Sony spendy units that the technology to make them is so expensive and difficult
The capital costs for OLED are much lower, but the marginal ("per-widget") costs much present at least.

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