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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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