Serious questions have been raised about Sony’s OLED strategy and in particular the promised launch of a 27″ OLED TV by Sony CEO Sir Howard Stringer.
OLED is Sony’s big display hope and since May 2008 several vendors including Samsung, LG and Panasonic have said that they are set to launch new large screen OLED TV’s in 2010.
Now one of Europe’s leading financial newspapers, The Financial Times, claims that more than 12 months ago in May 2008, Sony chairman and chief executive Sir Howard Stringer said that, within the next twelve months, Sony would launch a 27″ television based on OLED – organic light emitting diode – technology.
They also claim that Stringer also said that the struggling Japanese consumer electronics company was set to spend $288 Million on a new large screen OLED production facility.
Now there is little chance of the TV appearing this year with several analysts now questioning as to whether Sony can ever produce a profitable large screen OLED TV due to cost and technical issues.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Tetsuo Urabe, a Sony engineer who has worked on OLED for over a decade said that the company was close to delivering on their promise but he refused to say how or when.
The Financial Times said that OLED is the great hope of Sony’s struggling TV business: an all-new technology that would blow away the Taiwanese LCD makers with screens 0.3mm thick, 1,000,000-to-1 contrast ratios, and ultra-low power consumption.
Sony therefore caused a stir in 2007 when it launched the world’s first commercial OLED television: the XEL-1, an 11″ screen which Sony Australia is selling for $6,999. The same unit is selling in the USA for US$2,499.
In February 2008 at the All Thing D Conference, Stringer said of the 27″ OLED TV “This will come out in a 27″ version fairly soon,” and when pressed added, “Twelve months. Within twelve months.”
Today Sony has gone silent on when the TV will appear. The company claims that it is still committed to OLED, however they have failed to reveal how much of the much talked about $288 million has been spent on the OLED production plant.
Analysts have said that Sony is still struggling with major production problems in the commercial roll out of large but -cheap OLED screens: laying down the pattern of red, green and blue chemicals without spraying them through a mask – masks are too fragile for large sizes – and making the backplane of transistors that turn each pixel in an OLED screen on and off.
The Financial Times said that Small OLED screens are starting to make steady progress, appearing in Sony’s new X-Series Walkman, for example, and Microsoft’s Zune HD. There are also rumours that Sony will launch a new OLED TV at the IFA show in Berlin.