Flat screen or box TV: The debate

With global shipments of flat-panel televisions forecast to jump from four million units in the year to 31 March 2004 to 13.9 million in 2005/06, electronics makers are vying for a share of the highly profitable market.

    The debate continues, but most consumers opt for traditional televisions

    The question though is which technology will prevail.

    With screens only a few inches thick and measuring about 40 inches or more diagonally, televisions using plasma or liquid crystal display (LCD) technologies are among the most desirable electronic gadgets of all time.
       
    Still, with prices in the many thousands of dollars, these accessories remain but a dream for most. As such, flat-screen televisions currently only account for about 3% of the $31 billion TV market. 

    Technologies
       
    Manufacturers, preparing themselves for burgeoning demand, are focused on whether the dominant technology will be plasma, or LCD, which monopolise the smaller screen market, but are getting bigger and cheaper.

    To further confuse matters, there is also an emerging technology known as organic light-emitting diodes, or “glowing plastics”, Reuters reported.

    “It's very difficult to tell which display will come out a winner,” said Lee Kangsuk, vice president of Samsung Electronics' digital media network, in an interview.

    "For over 50-inch panels, plasma is superior. For below 30-inch, LCD is. For 40-inch, nobody knows. But that is the area where the biggest demand is setting in." 

    Growing pains

    "With prices projected to drop by 26% every year over the next four years, LCD TV demand is set to explode"

    HSBC


       
    LCDs have proved problematic to produce in larger sizes, and as a result plasma dominates the market for larger sets. However, LCD outsells plasma two to one worldwide, as many consumers opt for smaller less space-taking televisions.

    "So far plasma panels have dominated the large-size TV markets because LCD TVs are almost double the price of plasma when they are sized over 40 inches," said An Sung-ho, an analyst at Hanwha Securities.
       
    This may soon change.

    Plans by South Korean and Taiwanese companies to invest $25 billion in LCD production could dramatically lower costs.

    Dropping prices
     
    They see prices for larger screen televisions dropping to around $2000 by 2006.

    "With prices projected to drop by 26% every year over the next four years, LCD TV demand is set to explode," HSBC said in a research report.
       
    If the above scenario were to play out, Sharp Corp, the world's top LCD TV maker, and Samsung Electronics of South Korea would be the chief beneficiaries. 


       
    LG Philips LCD, a joint venture between Dutch Philips Electronics NV and Korea's LG Electronics Ltd, could also prosper.

    Imperfections
     
    Still, neither flat screen technology is perfect. LCDs are longer lasting than their plasma brothers but are not as bright.

    Debate aside, most retailers still recommend the traditional box TV for the quality of definition.

    Other industry behemoths are taking a punt on foldable screens that rely on organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs.
       
    Companies such as Seiko Epson, Philips, DuPont Co and Siemens-owned Osram are pioneering the technology.
       
    But they face a serious challenge as the lifespan of OLED TV’s is still too short for the product to be commercially viable.

    Debate aside, most retailers still recommend the traditional box TV for the quality of definition.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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