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Later this year, Australians will get the option of being able to buy an OLED TV when Samsung Electronics and LG launch new models but they won’t be cheap with the TV industry banking on the new technology to lift profits.

Analysts are tipping that the new TVs will probably be priced between US$8,999-9,999 in Australia. They will have better image quality, be thinner and more energy efficient than current backlit LED TVs.

LG is tipped to be the first followed by Samsung.

But will Australians buy this new technology?

The rumors are that Sony and Panasonic are also looking at launching an OLED TV offering. Sony, who initially said they would “lead the world” in OLED TVs, is now struggling to find a third party manufacturing partner due to a lack of funds.

 Both Japanese Companies recently reported billion dollar losses and are discussing a possible collaboration on making sets that use new OLED technology, an official at one of the companies said.

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The two companies have held preliminary talks on a potential tie-up to make TVs with organic light-emitting diode displays, the official said, declining to be named because the discussions are private.

A partnership may be key for the two companies, which reported profit forecasts last week that missed analyst estimates because of losses from selling TVs, as they try to catch up with Samsung  and LG the world’s two biggest TV makers, earn a profit from selling sets while Sony and Panasonic are restructuring by eliminating jobs and seeking partners.

“A tie-up would lower their development costs for OLED TVs and enable them to gain ground on the industry-leading South Korean manufacturers,” said Yuji Fujimori, an analyst for Barclays Capital in Tokyo. “Investors could also see this as an indication of how these companies are changing under new management.”

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Sony’s first OLED offering was a flop

The big question is will OLED be successful and will it lift the TV industry out of the cheap discount market.

Some analysts claim that OLED is the solution to the woes of the TV industry; a technical fix for a lack of profitability.

Research Company DisplaySearch said the problem with this thinking is that too many companies may pursue the OLED TV market. If they play by the same rules as the LCD TV business then the results are likely to be the same with the new technology. But the other concern is that industry is not taking consumer behaviour into account.

While OLED has the potential to offer images with high contrast and superb colours in a very thin package, much of this can already be done with LCD technology, combined with LED backlights. LED backlights offer pure primary colours, and in direct configurations, can have switchable zones offering high dynamic range – but high-performance direct backlights have failed in the market. While OLED clearly can be thinner than LCD, it is not clear whether many would pay extra for a set that was 5 mm thick instead of 20 mm – and some might even be worried about robustness in a home with children.

The painful lesson from 3D was that content and the consuming experience matter. Consumers’ purchasing behavior is driven by factors other than raw image quality.

 

Audio provides a worthwhile lesson. CD permitted high-quality sound at a low cost compared to the intricate manufacturing and knowledge necessary for analog audio. In fact it was so good that further attempts to offer improved audio failed. While SACD gained a niche foothold, who remembers MD, DVD-Audio, XRCD, DAT, DCC, HDCD, ECD? It took 20 years to bring something new to audio, when it became possible to put an entire music library in your pocket.

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p >Over the past few decades, the TV has often come close to becoming a monitor, and with the proliferation of sources from dedicated boxes as well as the Internet, the threat is returning rapidly. Instead of trying to climb the performance slope, the industry would be better advised to think deeply about how consumers are watching long-form video at home. This is a task for which the TV will remain the best screen. Viewing habits are shifting and consumers have rapidly-expanding options to source content beyond the antenna or Pay-TV box. There is a huge opportunity to assist with navigation and recommendation as the choices become more and more complex and will require inter-operation with the handheld devices in the home. The industry need not take billion dollar technology bets to provide better products.

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