Sony places its bet on SXRD projector technology

Sony is betting that a micro-display technology that it developed will give it the same edge in the projector TV market as its Trinitron technology has given it in the traditional CRT (cathode ray tube) market, one of the company's senior executives said last week at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

The company is hoping the technology, called SXRD (Silicon Crystal Reflective Display), will be seen by consumers to be superior to both Texas Instruments's DLP, which currently leads the market, and other competitors such as 3LCD, a technology backed by Fujitsu, Hitachi and other vendors.

"The full power of HD (high-definition) can only be realized through SXRD," said Mike Fidler, senior vice president of Sony Electronics and head of the company's home electronics division. "We believe SXRD will be the Trinitron of the 21st century."

SXRD was first unveiled in Tokyo almost two years ago and was used only in Sony's luxury Qualia brand until recently. Within the next month Sony will begin selling a projection TV using SXRD in the U.S. The XBR Grand Wega model has a 70-inch screen and is capable of displaying images up to 1080i resolution. It will cost about US$7,000, according to Sony's Web site.

Over time the company will push SXRD down through its projection TV range into lower price models, Fidler said in an interview. Sony also believes the technology will replace some its higher end flat-panel TVs, which at present are based on PDP (plasma display panel) or LCD (liquid crystal display) panels.

However, Sony isn't betting on SXRD for its entire TV range. It is currently putting the finishing touches on an LCD plant that has been built in South Korea with Samsung Electronics and will still use LCD panels in smaller TVs, Fidler said. The first panels are due to begin rolling off the new production line in the next few months.

Projection TVs work by shining light through a small display, usually a few inches in width, and then projecting it onto a much larger screen. At present, most sets are based on either DLP or 3LCD, and this common technology base leaves manufacturers little room for competition on picture quality.

Building up SXRD as a recognized picture brand would enable Sony to offer something that none of its competitors have and could give it an edge in a very competitive market. It would also reduce Sony's reliance on outside companies for the technology at the heart of its projection TVs.

The deal with Samsung for LCD panels has a similar goal of bring production in-house so Sony can better control and develop the technology and also benefit from cost savings associated with making the panels internally.

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Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
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