Many were surprised last week by Sony’s announcement that the company will shut down production of its rear projection HDTV models, and sell out existing inventory. One reason that this was a surprise is that by some measures, Sony was in second place for this market segment. Why would the company abandon this market?
As I’ve said before, the rear projection HDTV market defies gravity. If you’re in the market for a 1080p display in the 50″ to 70″ size range, you can save thousands of dollars and get excellent image quality by choosing a rear projection model over an LCD or plasma flat panel. Yet studies repeatedly show that consumers will pay the extra money to get a flat panel, even though they are not likely to hang it on the wall.
So Sony’s departure leaves the game to Samsung, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, and a handful of smaller companies such as JVC. It’s finally time to get pessimistic about the future of rear projection. Thinner cases have not made a difference, solid state lighting sources have not made a difference, and tiny bezels have not made a difference. The last shot in the locker would appear to be the LaserTVs that we hope to see at CES 2008 in Las Vegas next month. If that doesn’t spark interest in rear projection, then I don’t think anything will. Apparently this is one type of water that we can lead the American consumer to, but they still won’t drink.
So watch for the closeout sales of the Sony SXRD (LCoS) models; these are some of the best HDTVs available, and you may find an opportunity to get a great bargain.