Sony and Panasonic to collaborate on OLED TV

Partnership to develop OLED, but no plans for joint TV production

Sony and Panasonic have announced an agreement to collaborate to develop and produce large-sized OLED panels for use in TVs and professional displays.

Panasonic’s professional plasma display.

Panasonic’s professional plasma display.

Key to the partnership is the group’s investment in development of a joint OLED production method for large screen sizes. Sony’s existing technology will be combined with Panasonic’s ‘all printing’ OLED production, with the potential to bring production costs down sharply.

Both Sony and Panasonic posted record operating losses globally in 2011, in line with continued price erosion in the TV market. The partnership may turn their fortunes around, though: OLED technology has many more applications than existing LCD or plasma. Curved and flexible displays are possible, and picture quality advancements join higher power efficiency.

The collaboration will not produce results until at least 2013 — Sony’s announcement notes that mass production should be established then. Each company is planning to create its own “competitive, high-performance, next-generation” OLED TV, so it is not likely that a joint Panasonic-Sony TV will hit Australian markets.

The companies are late to the large-screen OLED game. Both Samsung and LG showed off 55-inch OLED TVs at CES 2012, with LG planning to bring out its OLED TV product for $10,000 in October in Australia.

Sony has made several OLED products since the first OLED TV, the XEL-1, in 2007: it uses organic panels in its 17-inch and 25-inch broadcast monitors, as well as its HMZ-T1 wearable 3D display and PlayStation Vita games console. It uses ‘deposition’ processes to create OLED panels, but the collaboration will see a hybrid production model developed.

Panasonic has a long history in the high-end professional display market, with a variety of specialised plasma monitors in up to 103-inch sizes. In addition to this, the company is a leader in the development of OLED.

Panasonic and Sony both have existing relationships with pioneering low-cost Taiwanese OLED developer AU Optronics. If Panasonic and Sony continue to partner in the development of OLED technology, it is possible that AUO may be used for the mass production of OLED TV units.

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