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Sharp says bigger is the only way to go

Posted: 11 Jan 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:LED? smart TV? IGZO?

As traditional TV manufacturers seek ways to jettison their commodity flat-panel TV businesses, Sharp Corp. is doubling down on its bet to remain viable as a top supplier of bigger and better TVs.

Speaking this week during the Consumer Electronics Show, an array of Sharp executives led by Toshi Osawa, chairman and CEO of its U.S. electronics marketing unit, announced that the Japanese company's future would rest squarely on TVs that are bigger and broader, with higher resolution and generally more expensive than ever before.

The foundation of Sharp's strategy, expressed by executive vice president Kozo Takahashi, lies in the transition of flat-panel TV from LCD to LED displays, with Sharp's emphasis on large screens and the expected proliferation of ultra-high definition TV (UHDTV) resolution. Intrinsic to success in this risky proposition is a new substrate for flat panels, developed jointly by Sharp and Corning Inc.

Sharp's IGZO technology (an acronym for its components: indium, gallium, zinc and oxygen) has already been deployed in Japan in smaller LCD devices, a Sharp Aquos ZETA smartphone and an Aquos tablet, Takahashi said.

According to James Clappin, president of display technologies at Corning, the combination of IGZO with Corning's patented Lotus glass, created an LED substrate with four times the resolution of full HD, "stunning colour" and lower power consumption than current LED screens.

These technologies, said Jim Sanduski, Sharp's vice president of strategic marketing, empower its introduction of the industry's largest line!21 models!of large-screen LED TVs ranging from 60 to 90 inches, with prices from $1,000 to $9,000.

At the pinnacle of this product push!and the biggest gamble!stand two UHDTV models promised in 2013.

UHDTV price?

The ICC Purios television offering "natural 3-D lifelike experience," according to Sanduski, will be ready for prime time this summer. An Aquos version of ultra-HD, with four times the resolution of existing HDTVs, is scheduled for release in the second half of 2013.

Prototypes of both UHDTV sets were rolled onto the stage here, drawing throngs of photographers and video cameramen. The 3-D TV wasn't turned on. The Aquos UHDTV presented a dazzling series of near-still video images that featured snow-covered mountains, Swiss villages and lazy rivers meandering through green valleys.

Sanduski didn't mention prices for either of Sharp's highest resolution high-end TV sets. Instead, he offered consumer testimonials for current Sharp large-screen sets. Among these was a Texas woman named Mary whose neighbours regularly come to watch football on her TV because picture quality is "why people love our LED TVs."

The Sharp executive avoided the suggestion that Mary's neighbours also come to her house because they can't afford a TV like hers. This possibility poses the greatest challenge to Sharp than the technological issues being addressed in the company's R&D labs.

Picture quality, as noted by Sharp President John Herrington, is the No. 1 motive for purchasing a new TV. But there has always been a price threshold beyond which even a better, brighter, bigger picture is just too dear for most consumers to pay. Whether Sharp, and other TV manufacturers now promoting UHDTV, can move that threshold up without losing customers!in a stubbornly sluggish economy!is the rub that might keep on rubbing, the wrong way.

- David Benjamin
??EE Times

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