Big OLED TVs Coming…

I know, I should be excited. I was hoping that maybe there’d be a viable 32″ OLED HDTV on the market sometime this year, but I wasn’t holding my breath. And here comes the news that LG will be showing a 55″ monster of an OLED HDTV at CES in Las Vegas next week.

Fifty-five freakin’ inches! That’s crazy! This tells us that they apparently don’t need polysilicon for the thin-film transistor (TFT) switching backplane, which should indicate that they’ve worked out the problems for a metal-oxide semiconductor layer to replace polysilicon. So we can expect to see a giant high-resolution panel that is gorgeous and thin and bright, and it won’t be affected by viewing angle or motion blur problems.

But then you see the weasel words in the news stories: “Pricing and availability will be announced later.” I will be amazed if LG announces either of those items at CES, which means that the display is little more than a technology demonstration at this point. Will people get excited and drool all over this new display, giving it lots of coverage? I have no doubt that this will happen, even without a price or a ship date. And I’ve got just one word for you to keep in mind when you read those glowing reports: SED.

If you don’t remember, Surface Emission Displays were the joint project of Canon and Sharp, and for a few years running, the panels were the darling of CES and the display industry. They looked amazing! And they never came to market.

I’m not saying that 55″ OLED HDTVs won’t come to market; I’m just saying that it may not be this year. And when they do ship, think back to the early days of plasma televisions when you imagine the pricing. I won’t be at all surprised if the first models come with a $5,000 price tag, or even more. At that price, I don’t count them as a real product any more than the “world’s fastest production car” is a real product. Someone I know in the display industry used to say, “There is no HDTV market above $2,500.” The point is that above that price point, the number of units sold is so tiny that it is nearly impossible to make it worthwhile.

At this point, I’m willing to accept LG’s demonstration at CES as a hopeful sign, but I’m not ready to count it as the launch of OLED HDTVs as a competitive product.