The HDTV market is a boom town. When a market grows this large and this rapidly — with every indication that it will continue to grow — then there will always be new players drawn to the action. Some will be big companies that are already well-established in other segments who want to expand into new fields. Dell is a perfect example of this.
As I walked the exhibit halls of CES in Las Vegas two weeks ago, however, I found a lot of small companies also moving to this new market. These included companies such as Genesis Tech, Thintek, and YDF (which somehow is short for “Shenzhen Yongdefu Electronics Industry Co., Ltd.”). Hardly household names. They were based all over: mainland China, Taiwan, and Korea.
In almost all the cases, the story was the same. They had LCD TVs or plasma TVs or both (or in a few rare cases, rear-projection display light engines) which they were ready to sell in the United States either under their own brand or as OEMs for some other brand. And all were looking for distribution.
Having a product and a good price is not enough. You have to have a way to get it on the shelves of stores (or the Web pages of online retailers), and given the fierce competition for space, this is not an easy task. A major retailer can’t carry all models of all brands, and many only have a limited number of choices in the traditional “good, better, best” marketing scheme. But occasionally, one of these newcomers will get an order, and you’ll see an unfamiliar brand appear in an ad or on a floor display.
In general, don’t expect too much from these companies. What you see is likely to be what you get, so don’t count on great documentation or expert after-sales support from the manufacturer. (You should be able to expect this from the retailer who sold the set to you, however.) But these companies are hungry, and looking to feed off the scraps that fall off the table where the big guys are chowing down. And their deals tend to focus more on price than technology. One company sent me their wholesale price sheet; they’re asking $800 for a 32″ LCD HDTV. Even with shipping costs added in, that can still result in a retail price that can grab the attention of buyers.
So next time you see an amazing price for an HDTV from a brand that you don’t recognize, it’s probably from a small Asian company. Whether they will be able to take this initial foothold and step up to become a significant factor in the marketplace is unlikely, but there’s a real chance it could happen.