From The Wall Street Journal - Tuesday, June 26, 2012
By DAISUKE WAKABAYASHI
Sony and Panasonic plan to establish a mass-production method for OLED panels.
TOKYO—In a bid to steal a march on South Korean rivals introducing new ultrathin televisions, Sony Corp. and Panasonic Corp. agreed to cooperate on production technology for organic light-emitting diode display, or OLED, panels for large-screen TVs.
Rivals Sony and Panasonic have agreed to team up to develop next-generation flat panels and modules for TVs and large-size displays in an alliance that is the first of its kind for the two Japanese firms, Scott Austin reports on digits.
Sony and Panasonic said they plan to establish a mass-production method in 2013 and are still considering whether to collaborate in the actual mass production of OLED panels and modules. However, both companies said they plan to make their own TV sets regardless of their alliance.
If they produce the large-screen panels together, they may also partner with a low-cost Asian manufacturer, an option they are discussing with Taiwan's AU Optronics Corp., according to two people familiar with the discussions. AU Optronics declined to comment.
For nearly a decade, TV manufacturers have trumpeted the promise of OLED televisions. The screens offer improved image quality in a much thinner frame than existing liquid crystal displays, but the industry has struggled to develop a low-cost way to manufacture the OLED displays at large sizes.
For Japan's two largest consumer-electronics companies, once bitter rivals, this alliance points up the financial difficulties they are facing, with both coming off a record annual loss. Developing a new display technology and building production facilities for the new screens can be costly and risky.
Aware of how the introduction of LCD and plasma-display technology gave birth to a TV-buying boom in the past decade, TV manufacturers are now hoping that OLED can spark a new wave of demand.
Sony developed the world's first OLED television, an 11-inch model released in 2007, but it has struggled to roll out additional models at larger sizes because the costs remained too high for a mass-market product. This year, Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc. are planning to introduce a 55-inch OLED television.
But even the Korean manufacturers have yet to solve the cost riddle of OLED. Samsung, which has pursued OLED technology for use in smartphones and tablet computers, has said its new OLED television will cost more than $9,000, making it unaffordable for most consumers. Sony and Panasonic said they would meet regularly to share information about a new production method using printing technologies that may offer a way to manufacture large-size screens at a lower cost.
—Hiroyuki Kachi contributed to this article.
Write to Daisuke Wakabayashi at firstname.lastname@example.org