HDTV: Is 50 the New 4o?

DigitTimes reports today quoting the executive vice president of AU Optronics, which is one of the largest LCD makers in Taiwan. Hsing Hui predicts that the 50″ LCD HDTV will become a mainstream segment, as increased production results in lower costs, which in turn will make LCDs competitive with plasma in this size range.

This is an intriguing concept, but it takes a closer look to understand what this really means. 50″ LCD will probably catch 50″ plasma by about 2008 in terms of price, but only if you’re looking at the 1080p resolution segment. I expect that lower-resolution plasma panels will remain considerably less-expensive than LCD. However, when you get to the 50″ size, then 1080p resolution really makes a lot of sense so it is reasonable to focus on just this resolution.

On the other hand, 1080p plasma and LCD HDTVs will probably cost at least $5,000 in 2008, so I hesitate to predict that they will be a “mainstream” product. They will likely sell in the tens of thousands of units in 2008, and that’s worldwide. Compared with the tens of millions of units of smaller plasma and LCD units that will be sold in 2008, it’s not that big a deal.

So even though the prices for 50″ LCD and plasma HDTV will likely meet in a couple years, I don’t expect it to become a dominant size in the marketplace.