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Is Plasma Technology on the Decline? Print E-mail
Thursday, 26 February 2009
Article Index
Is Plasma Technology on the Decline?
Page 2
ImageBy now we’ve all heard the chatter.  Whenever two different types of technology are in competition with each other, there’s a tendency to declare a victor, and every media outlet wants to be the first to make the call.  The long standing rivalry between LCD and Plasma displays is no exception, and seems to have come to a peak in recent weeks as early this month; both Vizio and Pioneer announced the end of their Plasma television lines.

Between the two brands, the main scope of television purchasers is covered.  Vizio, famed for their highly affordable entry level units, covers a fair portion of what we’ll call the casual crowd.  Pioneer of course caters to not only the casual consumer but the enthusiast looking for the best money can buy.

As early as January 2007 articles appeared online declaring the LCD format as victorious, but this may be the first time that there’s been anything more than mere speculation to go on.  While Vizio’s pullout might not mean much to the higher end consumer it does equate to a portion of Plasma sales that may end up as LCD purchases.  More consumers are buying their first HDTVs to keep up with the changing television landscape, especially with the new DTV transition deadline looming 3.5 months away.

Of greater interest to the high end consumer though, is that this spells the end of the beloved Kuro line.  One of the most well reviewed Plasma sets on the market, and often called the best of the bunch by reviewers and enthusiasts alike, this is surely a blow for Plasma technology.  

With Pioneer and Vizio, both in the top 5 makers of Plasma displays by volume, Panasonic, LG, and Samsung are left as the big name Plasma manufacturers.  Of these three, each one makes LCDs as well, and would seemingly have financial stability if and when they decide to eliminate Plasma televisions from their lineup.

Plasma displays have always been touted as the better of the two technologies, with contrasts that LCD can’t even come close to and amazingly accurate colors.  Celebrated as it was and held by most as the superior format, it’s a wonder that Plasma seems to be heading the way of Betamax.  There are a lot of factors that go into this, from pricing and decisions on the corporate level all the way down to consumer knowledge.
Plasma display

 Barriers for Acceptance

The first and quite possibly biggest issue facing Plasma is the early bad press the TVs got.  Casual consumers don’t research the way enthusiasts do, and they certainly don’t know what they want before visiting the store.  They ask their friends and they ask often uninformed salespeople.   The average consumer knows a few ‘facts’ about Plasma televisions, prime among them is that their screen will burn in and forever retaining the image of the ESPN scrollbar.  

Anyone that’s done even a bit of research on the subject knows this hasn’t been a problem for years, but the initial news reports stick in the average consumer’s head.  Walking through an electronics store, it’s still commonplace to hear the stories of horribly burnt in televisions, even from people who should know better.  Unfortunately for the Plasma market, no one seems to have gone out of the way to educate the buyers about this.   By failing to properly address the problem and simply ignoring the bad reputation, much of the public, wading through technology that they don’t totally understand, take the tidbits they remember and insist on LCD.

LCDs also have the distinct advantage of being generally cheaper to make.  This is clearly a great increase in profit margin, but that only explains companies pulling out, not the better sales figures.  That is, until commissions are figured into the picture.  Sellers of high end televisions, including some of the big box locations, get paid on a commission basis, and the bigger the commission, the more likely they are to push the product.   Money is a great motivator, there’s no way around it.  But the sheer volume of LCD purchases likely outweighs the higher commission rates of more expensive Plasma TV's.


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