If you've been putting off buying a flat-panel LCD TV with the hope of getting one for a dramatically lower price this year, it looks like you're out of luck. During the DisplaySearch Flat-Panel TV conference I'm attending in La Jolla, Calif., this week, panelists said they expect price declines in 2008 to be moderate, and some LCD models may actually be a bit more expensive.
There may also be fewer LCD brands to choose from, several panelists warned. Less familiar brands may be pushed off shelves as some better-known brands, including Sony and Vizio, continue to market models specifically for mass-market market retailers such as Wal-Mart.
In plasmas, the other major flat-panel technology, panelists predicted more and deeper price drops than for LCDs, though nothing to rival the declines of the past few years. In both plasma and LCDs, price drops will be greater for 1080p (so-called "full HD") models than for those with 720p resolution.
Both technologies will continue a growing overlap in screen sizes. In addition to a growing number of sub-40-inch plasmas, some 55-inch LCD models are expected. Ross Young, president of DisplaySearch, predicts we'll also see 46-inch plasmas emerge to compete with 46- and 47-inch LCD TVs.
As for OLED, the new kid on the flat-panel block, speakers predicted a promising future. But they also said OLED technology isn't likely to have a major impact on flat-panel TV sales for several years, for reasons that range from high cost and small size to concern about life expectancy and burn-in. More brands of OLED sets will be available in 2008. LG will begin OLED production during the first half of the year, joining Samsung, Sony, eMagin and others. Sharp is expected to build a pilot line this year. We may also see the arrival of some of the first flexible displays, most likely in eBook readers.
Other news from the event:
Wal-Mart is now the second-largest seller of TVs in the U.S., behind Best Buy, and is expanding its offerings and merchandising;
The use of LED backlights in LCD sets will surge in 2008, and we'll see a growing number of notebooks use this technology, which promises a wider range of colors and more consistent brightness across the display;
In LCD, there will be a heightened emphasis on 120Hz technology, which can help reduce motion blur in fast-moving images. In January, 120Hz models had the majority share of 52-inch sets, despite the 30 percent price premium for sets with the technology;
- And retailers will increasingly push product "bundles"—such as a TV, Blu-ray player and software—to help maintain margins as TV profitability declines.
These are just some of the early highlights of the conference. I'll be filing a more comprehensive report within the next few days.
—James K. Willcox