Gadgets

4K wins: Sony reportedly suspends OLED development in favor of high-res TVs (updated)

Above: Sony's XBR X950B Series 4K Ultra HD TV on a floor stand.

Image Credit: Sony

Updated at 12:35 PM pacific with comments from a Sony representative

After 11 years in the red, Sony’s television hardware unit is craving a return to profitability — so it’s shying away from pricey OLED TVs.

The Japanese electronics maker is shelving commercial development of new OLED TVs to focus on Ultra HD “4K” sets, reports Japanese business publication Nikkei.

Organic light-emitting diode displays (OLEDs) work without a backlight, so they can display deep black levels with a thinner, lighter form factor than other current display tech — but the production process for large OLEDs remains extremely expensive.

Sony had partnered with Panasonic on OLED tech, hoping that shared technologies would drive down production costs, but that initiative disintegrated by the end of December. Sony pursued further development of OLED displays for a few months, but company executives have evidently decided that effort is no longer worthwhile — not while the company’s 4K TVs are selling so well, at least.

Sony’s 4K displays command prices up to $1,000 more than its comparably-sized HDTVs. Sony leads the 4K market, soaking up around 20% of global 4K revenues last year. It plans to release eight new 4K models this summer, which are likely to feature LED or LCD displays.

The company clearly forecasts increased demand for the high-resolution displays, which it believes are more likely to bring its TV business back into the black.

“The cost and performance of LCD panels have both continued to improve and Sony is looking to continue focusing, for the time being, on releasing 4K LCD TVs containing a variety of Sony’s proprietary technologies into the high-end consumer big screen TV market,” Maya Wasserman, a Sony representative, told VentureBeat.

Sony Computer Entertainment, Sony’s game business, also shelved the PlayStation Vita’s OLED display in favor of an LCD screen in the newer Vita model. The new display looks worse than the original screen on Sony’s portable game system, but it’s a lot cheaper for Sony to produce.

“When speaking of next generation display components, there’s no denying the superiority of OLED displays due to the theoretic ability to self-emit luminance,” said Wasserman.

“Sony continues developing and looking into reliable ways to mass produce OLED displays for consumers while continuing to build experience via providing OLED displays for professional, medical, and broadcast use.”

More information:

Sony is a Japanese multinational conglomerate corporation headquartered in Kōnan, Minato, Tokyo, Japan. Sony Corporation is the electronics business unit and the parent company of the Sony Group, which is engaged in business through... read more »

Panasonic Corporation group of companies is a globally recognized manufacturer of electric and electronic products that range from electronic components to consumer electronic products, home appliances, factory automation equipment, in... read more »

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4 comments
Jerry Hsiang
Jerry Hsiang

OLED is hard for the market to adopt due to price and supplier constraints. Pushing 4K doesn't necessarily means market mass adoption is viable it just means resources are more concentrated.

Nielo Olein
Nielo Olein

It's basically due to viability. Standard OLEDs are harder to market for various reasons. But Transparent OLED (TOLED) may have what it takes to energize/excite the market but that's years off.

Christopher Bousigues
Christopher Bousigues

These are short to medium term P&L decisions.... Far away are we from the times where Sony was a bold and innovating company creating market segments and customer needs