A Canon spokesman said on Thursday the two companies had been jointly developing surface conduction electron emitter display (SED) panels since 1999, aiming to have a product ready by next year. 

"If we are able to complete the product, we would like to create a joint venture company with Toshiba early next year," said spokesman Hiroshi Shiozuka. The start of production was
targeted for 2004, he added.

SED panels will be thinner than liquid crystal displays and consume less electricity than plasma panels, while creating a better image, he said.

Canon could use the product in its office equipment machines
such as copiers, or to make computer panels, but its main focus is on marketing television displays, Shiozuka said.

"Making televisions is one of the most important options for us," he said.

Launch date not decided

Toshiba spokesman Makoto Yasuda said: "we are beginning to see the results" of the joint research, but added, the timing of the product launch, or the creation of a joint company had not been decided.

The Nihon Keizai newspaper said on Thursday annual production of the SEC panels was projected at about 400,000 to 500,000 units. Shiozuka said the company aimed to use its marketing channels to sell the products overseas, including in the United States.

Toshiba would focus on the Japanese market, the paper said. 

The domestic flat-panel TV market roughly doubled to 234 billion yen ($2.2 billion) in the year to March 2003 from a year earlier, it said.