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Panasonic focuses on size, rivals go slim

Panasonic focuses on size, rivals go slim

Panasonic is proving that bigger really is better as it uses its plasma display technology to create ever larger, more visually stunning HDTVs (high-definition TVs), but it's a different track from what some of its rivals are following.

The company showed off a 150-inch (3.81 meters) plasma display with four times the resolution of an HDTV rated for 1080p. That means the set may be able to handle better resolutions coming in the future, the company said. The monstrous TV towered over presenters standing in front of it. It totaled 6.25 feet (1.9 meters) tall and 11 feet (3.35 meters) wide.

Panasonic developed the larger TVs after the sales success of its 103-inch (2.62 meters) sets, a spokesman said. But the path of 'bigger-is-better' that Panasonic is taking is decidedly different from some of its main rivals in the flat-screen TV market, which are focusing more on making their sets slimmer, lighter and more power-efficient.

For example, Sony and Samsung Electronics both showed off ultra-thin OLED (organic light-emitting diode) TVs, with one Sony set, an 11-inch OLED TV, already on sale for about US$2,500, being just 3 millimeters thick. Sony also showed off a 27-inch prototype OLED TV, and Samsung offered up a 14-inch model and a 31-inch model. The Samsung OLED TVs won't be on sale for at least another year as the company works to reduce costs.

Japan's Sharp may have come up with the most economical way to slim down a flat-screen TV. The company worked on reducing the size of the backlight on the TV and showed off two prototypes at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, a 56-inch and a 65-inch, both of them just 1 inch thick. LCD TVs are far more easy and economical to produce than OLED TVs, giving Sharp a distinct edge in coming battles for consumer dollars.

Sharp also unveiled a 108-inch LCD TV and said it would go on sale later this year. Like Panasonic, Sharp has learned that there is a market for the huge-screen TVs, though the company declined to speculate on possible pricing.

In its drive to create larger plasma display TVs, Panasonic is building a new, fifth-generation plasma display factory in Japan to manufacture the larger screens.

The 150-inch set will probably go on sale in 2009, but the company hasn't set a price yet. The only comparably sized displays are the company's 103-inch plasma TVs, which cost about US$60,000 to US$70,000.

The 150-inch TV boasts a resolution of 2,160 x 4,096, with 8.84 million pixels. The company will wait for the completion of its new factory later in 2008 before it starts commercial production of the 150-inch screens, which it intends to begin selling next year.


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