From The Wall Street Journal - December 26, 2013
By Kana Inagaki
TOKYO— Sony Corp. and Panasonic Corp. have decided to end a development venture that would produce technology to make big and ultrathin televisions, underscoring the challenges of bringing next-generation TVs to the mass market.
People with knowledge of the matter said Wednesday the alliance in technology for organic light-emitting diode display, or OLED, panels for large-screen TVs is expected to end this month, a year and a half after Japan's two big consumer electronics rivals decided to work together.
The screens offer improved image quality in a much thinner frame than existing liquid-crystal displays, and are brighter and more energy efficient than LCDs, the most popular types of screens today.
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 costs remained too high for a mass-market product.
The Japanese rivals agreed last year to cooperate on OLED technology to bring down the costs and lower risks of developing a new display technology and building production facilities. Despite ending the alliance for now, they may still explore cooperating on production technology for OLED panels in the future, the people said.
One of the people said the sharing of information about a new production method using printing technologies had allowed the companies to enhance the speed of production for OLED TVs. Sony and Panasonic exhibited a prototype ultrahigh-definition, 56-inch OLED television at this year's Consumer Electronics Show.
South Korean makers such as Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc. have driven the market, both rolling out a 55-inch OLED television earlier this year. But they also are struggling to cost-effectively produce OLED screens to make the technology affordable for most consumer TVs.
Combined with the high costs, the increasing demand for ultrahigh-definition TVs, which promise four times the resolution of existing high definition LCD TVs, has also raised questions whether consumers are willing to try out another new technology and pay a premium for OLED TVs when prices for the new ultrahigh-definition TVs are already starting to come down. The shipments of ultrahigh-definition TVs are expected to total 1.9 million units in 2013 and rise to 12.7 million units in 2014, according to research firm NPD DisplaySearch.
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