Plasma display panel (PDP) technology makers are pinning high hopes on the emerging but uncertain 3D television market to claw back market share after falling behind popular LCD flat screens.
LCD or liquid crystal display has led the replacement of cathode-ray tube (CRT) television, as its technological edge over PDP in producing smaller sizes helped attract consumers trading in bulky and boxy CRT sets.
“PDP won’t be able to challenge LCD as a mainstream flat panel technology as LCD also continues to evolve,” said Will Cho, an analyst at Daewoo Securities.
“Having said that, it still does have strength over LCD, especially in the 3D market. So the stronger 3D market grows, the better PDP technology will be able to recover,” he said.
PDP has been a choice of technology in large sized panels over 40 inches, although LCDs are rapidly expanding into the market with free-falling prices.
Prices of 42-inch LCD panel have dropped around 40 per cent over the past two years, which were moderated by severe glass shortages last year, according to industry data.
LCDs account for around 70 per cent of global TV market of around 210 million units in 2009, with CRT less than a quarter and PDP only 7 per cent, according to DisplaySearch.
PDP makers are making a last-ditch effort on 3D TVs, which usually come in big size screens where PDP scores on pricing and boasts wider viewing angle and quicker response.
“We believe plasma TVs are the best device to offer 3D images thanks to its high response speeds...and all this attention on 3D TVs is a strong tailwind for our plasma business,” said Toshihiko Shibuya, a spokesman for Panasonic, the world’s top PDP set maker.
DisplaySearch forecast plasma TV unit shipments to rise about 6 per cent this year to just over 15 million units, after falling 2 per cent in 2009. But that will still be dwarfed by more than 180 million LCD sets sold — a 24 per cent jump over last year.
“PDP is still more popular in large-sized markets of over 50 inches and it is viewed as more competitive technology in 3D TV markets where delivering vivid images is critical, which is one of PDP’s strengths,” said Jason Kim, a spokesman for Samsung Electronics, the world’s top TV brand.
Analysts said Panasonic may start running its PDP lines at full capacity from September as supply of 3D TV panels rises.
But LG Electronics got off the bus in 2007: it suspended one of its PDP production lines and converted it into solar cell production line to restructure the less profitable PDP business.