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Organic LED TVs Have A Rough Road To Market

Researchers warn organic LED technology may make only minor inroads in the global television market over the next few years.

Despite announcements from Sony and Toshiba touting the visual superiority of organic LED displays, the technology is expected to make only minor inroads in the global television market over the next few years, because of high prices and manufacturing obstacles, a market research firm said.

OLED-TV shipments worldwide are expected to increase to 1.2 million units in 2012 from 8,000 this year, iSuppli said. This would amount to a revenue increase to $691 million from less than $1 million. These numbers, however, reflect a very small share of the overall TV market, accounting for less than half of 1% of the 242.7 million TVs expected to ship in 2011.

Sony recently drew attention to the technology by announcing plans to ship this year in Japan an 11-inch TV with an organic light-emitting diode display. Rival Toshiba responded by saying that it would accelerate plans to release a 20.8-inch TV with similar display technology.

OLED screens, used mostly in mobile phones today, have brighter pictures, higher contrast, and better color than seen on today's LCD and plasma screens, analysts report. The reason is the technology emits light, rather than depending on a backlight.

But making OLED screens in sizes of 20 inches or more, which is necessary to enter the mainstream TV market, is expected to take time, iSuppli said. Manufacturers will need to develop the processes necessary to make the screens in large volumes, and to build the equipment needed to build the panels efficiently.

Until manufacturers can drop the per-unit cost of making the TVs, retail prices are expected to be much higher than mature options, such as LCD TVs, which are expected to cost half as much, iSuppli said. As a result, most consumers are expected to choose rival technologies, which will be available in abundance.

Today's TV market is flooded with display options, including CRT, LCD, plasma, and four types of projection systems. In addition, there's the potential for a variety of novel technologies, such as surface-conduction electron-emitter display (SED) and carbon-nanotube field emission display (FED), iSuppli said.

With so many options, makers of OLED TVs may find it difficult to attract the attention of end-product OEMs and channel vendors, iSuppli said.

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