Samsung is betting that lots of people will want larger HDTVs as the prices come down. In an interview with the Korea Times, the chief of Samsung’s LCD Technology Center announced that the company has plans to build aGen 11 LCD fabrication plant. The line will use 3,200 by 3,600 millimeter sheets of glass substrates. That’s 10.5 feet by 11.8 feet; we have rooms in our house that have smaller floors than that. According to the article, the Gen 11 line will be optimized to produce 70″ LCD HDTVs.
70″?!? Look, I’m as big a booster of flat panel as the next industry pundit, but hey, even I don’t believe that this market is without limits. It may be that there is a sizable group of consumers with the disposable income (and large enough walls) to be able to afford a 70″ LCD TV. But even if the prices come tumbling down, I can’t expect them to sell for much less than $2,000. And $2,000 is a lot of money for a television, as far as the average American consumer is concerned. I think that you need to get well under $1,000 before most people are seriously going to think about buying a TV, especially in today’s economy. Keep in mind that just a few years ago, $500 was a lot of money to spend on a typical picture tube television. Now we’re asking people to spend multiples of that amount for a big screen TV.
Samsung is probably responding to two problems. First, the smaller sets that are affordable and appealing to the mass market are being made by the plants in Taiwan and mainland China at prices that Samsung and the other giants can’t match. So they have to compete in the larger sizes that the smaller plants can’t build. But that’s the territory of plasma, and so LCD prices have to come down significantly for sets 50″ and larger in order to compete with plasma. New plants handling larger sheets of glass may yield lower costs through greater efficiency, but it’s a gamble.