Depending on whose research one believes, the plasma screen market is in decline with several retailers around the world reporting falls as much as 34% during the past 6 months. One company set to be hurt by this downturn is Fujitsu, one of the original inventors of plasma.
One of the original inventors of plasma, Fujitsu, is today wallowing in losses as it struggles with declining sales and poor marketing across several areas of their business which include IT services, computer hardware manufacturing and semiconductor manufacturing.
In Australia Fujitsu General is a niche plasma marketer with companies like Samsung, Pioneer and Panasonic outselling them in both mass retailers and the specialist channel. At the same time LCD TV manufacturers like Sony, Samsung, Sharp and Toshiba are taking share away from Fujitsu as they deliver bigger and better screens. Once the benchmark for plasma screens, the Fujitsu brand is fast being overtaken by other mainstream brands.
As one analyst said at the recent CES show in Las Vegas “Fujitsu is a brand that could have owned the plasma market. The only problem is that they don’t have a clue about marketing or building a brand and as a result they have suffered at the hands of brands like Sony, Samsung or LG who do know how to market themselves”.
Eighteen months ago Fujitsu General stopped making plasma panels. Instead it today uses an Hitachi panel, and as anyone in the industry knows, the panel is a key part of any plasma screen. Fujitsu General, which sell the Fujitsu screens in Australia, claims it is not using OEM manufactured components despite the biggest and most expensive component, the panel, coming from a Hitachi.
The company which recently pulled out of the CEDIA Expo in Surfers Paradise claimed it did so because it had no new models to show. It was only a few weeks ago that a senior executive of the company told SHN that it was because sales were slow and margins tight resulting in the company having to curtail marketing expenditure.
Plasma is not the only market where Fujitsu has struggled. In an attempt to get into the LCD TV market, Fujitsu computers released a combination LCD TV screen and Windows Media Centre. It bombed after the company failed to get several retailers to stock the device. Those that did described the combination device as “ill thought out for the Australian market” . Many were forced to discount the device out to sell it.
Even during the booming days of plasma, Fujitsu, which does produce a high quality plasma TV, was unable to get itself into a leadership position despite owning many of the patents associated with plasma.
Now as consumers desert plasma in droves for LCD TVs, the company is still trying to come up with new plasma technology. The only problem is that several companies such as Toshiba, Canon, Sony and Samsung are working on new TV technology such as SED and OLED which could well relegate plasma to the TV scrap yard.
In Japan Fujitsu Laboratories have been trying for several years to develop new plasma technology to produce narrow glass tubes, measuring one meter in length and one-millimeter in diameter, that emit light using the same phosphor structure as in a conventional PDP (plasma display panel).
In addition, the company has developed a technology that sandwiches an array of these plasma tubes between two electrode plates to make up a display panel. Fujitsu succeeded in producing a prototype panel using 128 plasma tubes (for a screen size of 128 mm x 1 m) that display moving images in color.
The new technologies afford ultra-large displays for indoor use that can curve to the full extent of one’s spatial vision, resulting in a vivid sense of immediacy that invites new applications for displays, such as virtual-reality education, virtual stadiums, and other uses of broadband media.