Reuters reported that Sony said yesterday that the company will market OLED HDTVs before the end of this year. By Sony’s own admission, the new sets will be “very expensive” and will initially be marketed “as a status symbol”. Sony plans to start initial production at about 1,000 units per month, which is a trickle compared with the 6.5 million LCD TVs that are expected to be produced each month this year.
The new models will also be just 11″ diagonal. That’s about a quarter the size of a typical desktop computer monitor, and than most notebook computer screens. Face it; this is tiny. At this size, it will be a very personal HDTV for one person. However, they will be many times thinner than an LCD, because OLEDs only need one layer of glass instead of two, and do not require a backlight. They are emissive, like a plasma or picture tube display, so the viewing angle will be excellent. And the response time is as fast as a picture tube display, so there should be no motion smearing as seen on LCDs.
This announcement by Sony means that OLED HDTVs will come to market sooner than I had expected, though the low volume, small size, and high price will clearly limit their impact to being little more than a novelty item. It is encouraging to see that a giant like Sony is willing to get out in front on this; the company has the marketing clout and brand recognition to make a success out of a premium product like this. (Consumers used to pay a lot more for a Trinitron television than competing models, and were happy to do so.) My only concern is whether or not Sony will have the technology ready for this launch. If the early products have problems with image quality or reliability, it could sour consumers on OLEDs which could set back broader adoption of the technology. Time will tell on that score, but for now, it’s exciting to know that we may see these new, super-slim TVs on the shelves before the year is over.