Sony, Panasonic to collaborate on OLED TVs

Bloomberg

Sony Corp. and Panasonic Corp. have agreed to jointly develop televisions using OLED displays as they try to rebound from a combined ¥1.2 trillion in losses last year.

Japan’s two biggest makers of TVs aim to establish mass-production technology for organic light-emitting diode panels next year, they said in a statement Monday. They didn’t set target dates for introducing OLED sets.

The partnership is the first between the main TV operations at the two companies, which are losing money as the strong yen erodes overseas earnings and as competition from South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc. intensifies. The two South Korean companies have said they will introduce OLED models by Dec. 31.

“Sony and Panasonic wanted to do it separately, but neither of them had a choice other than to cooperate as their TV businesses recorded huge losses,” said Kazuharu Miura, an analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc. “They may be able to speed up development by combining their technologies.”

OLED televisions are as thin as 4 mm and produce sharper images than current liquid crystal display models. Shipments of OLED TVs may grow to 2.1 million sets in 2015 from 34,000 in 2012, according to U.S.-based research firm iSuppli.

Using organically glowing materials, OLED TVs don’t require separate backlights and can be half the thickness of Apple’s iPad 2, which measures 8.8 mm. The technology, already used in mobile devices, including Sony’s PlayStation Vita players and Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones, uses less power than LCDs and has a higher contrast rate, creating more vivid images.

Samsung and LG showed 55-inch OLED sets at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.

Sony, which introduced the first OLED TV with an 11-inch screen in 2007, is studying the demand for larger sets and the investment that would be needed to make them, Sony President Kazuo Hirai said in a February interview.

OLED sets won’t represent the bulk of TV sales “next year, the year after or even the year after that,” Hirai said before becoming president in April.