It is beyond any doubt that the South Koreans possess the upper hand in the race to churn out the first batches of swanky OLED televisions. LG has already made plans to unveil their organic screens in Europe very soon, while rivals Samsung's 55-inch beauties are rumored to arrive in the latter half of the year at a sweltering price of US$9,000. Now it appears that the Japanese are looking for avenues to top the Koreans in the OLED game.
Based on a recent report from Reuters, Sony Corp and Panasonic Corp are currently in talks to develop and mass produce OLED televisions. Sony was one of the first TV makers to retail an OLED screen in the consumer space four years ago, but they were forced to shelf long-term production plans for the 11-inch XEL-1 due to the global downturn and poor sales figures.
Here's what Mr Masayuki Otani, Chief Market Analyst at Securities Japan, has to say about the possible merger between Sony and Panasonic.
"Overseas competitors have gotten a head start in this area and I feel like they're stepping into this too late. There's no question OLED TVs are going to be the mainstream. The issue is price and size of the displays. Japanese makers haven't been able to produce OLED TVs that are as large as Samsung's. And I think there's an element of Japanese pride to this - the fact that Panasonic and Sony will work together to produce OLEDs to beat their Asian rivals. But I do have serious doubts on whether they can catch up," said Mr Otani.
Many analysts believe that OLED displays are the future of HDTVs. They are slimmer than conventional LCD screens due to the absence of a backlight unit, they consume less power, and they also deliver a sharper image quality compared to liquid crystal display sets. According to research firm IHS Inc, shipments of OLED televisions may swell to 2.1 millions sets in 2015 compared to 34,000 sets this year. Japanese TV makers, such as Sony and Panasonic, used to dominate the TV scene in the eighties and nineties, but have faced numerous setbacks in recent times. The rise of their aggressive Korean competitors undoubtedly contributed to their decline, plus the receding demand for TVs as well as the appreciating Yen ballooned the Japanese's exportation costs as well.
To help defray development costs, it is rumored that Sony is in talks with Taiwanese firm AU Optronics, who is under financial stress too, on a possible collaboration to produce OLED screens according to an industry source.