Okay, we’ve done flat. What next? According to Sharp, the next step will be thinner flat panel HDTVs. The company hopes to trim set thickness in half or so, to create a sexy, svelte display. The other part of the strategy is that these panels will be able to command a premimum in the marketplace, and stave off the fierce competition that keeps driving down prices 20% to 30% per year.
It’s a nice idea, but I’m not sure if it will fly. The problem is that as the market for HDTVs grow, the new buyers become more price sensitive. A thinner panel really doesn’t make much difference to most consumers. Yes, they may be lighter, but most people don’t hang their sets on the wall, and even if they do, the reduced weight isn’t going to make a difference. You spend most of your time looking at the front of the set, so the reduced thickness won’t be apparent from that angle.
One needs look no further than the automobile market of 20 years ago to find the formula for success in the HDTV market. Offer a product with all the features your customer might want included in the standard model. Create a quality product that will perform well with good reliability. And offer it a price that undercuts the premium products while delivering everything but the premium brand name. That’s how the Japanese automakers dealt a body blow to the entrenched Detroit car makers, and the same approach is working today for companies like Vizio, Olevia, and Westinghouse.