February 16, 2010
| by Arlen Schweiger
With all the momentum that 3D TV has created, something in the display industry seemingly had to fall through the cracks. For Sony it looks like that will be OLED (organic light-emitting diode) technology, at least for now.
The company has decided to halt production and sales of its XEL-1 OLED flat-panel set in its home country of Japan, according to Reuters. Sony will continue to sell the model in other countries, but this can’t be a good sign for the energy-efficient technology, whose lack of backlighting made for a razor-thin TV.
It also made for a pretty expensive one. The XEL-1 cost $2,500, and while we can think of worse overpricing crimes perpetrated on consumers, that much for a flat-panel TV only 11 diagonal inches had to make for a tough sell, especially when you can buy a high-def projector and 100-inch screen for that amount.
The XEL-1 set debuted amid buzz at CES back in 2008, with jaw-dropping specs like 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio and 3mm depth.
“As flat panel TVs are getting bigger and cheaper, hurdles for OLED models have become higher, at least in the short term,” Hisakazu Torii, vice president of Japanese TV market research at DisplaySearch, told Reuters.
The XEL-1 will be available in Japan until inventory runs out, Sony said, while research and development in North America and other overseas markets will continue. Shortly after debuting the XEL-1 Sony announced it was putting over $200 million into R&D, with an eye toward larger OLED sets, but we forecast that it would be many years before those larger OLED displays actually appeared.
Now, with all of the display manufacturers hot on the 3D TV trail, we certainly won’t be holding our breath in anticipation of 50-inch poster-like OLED TVs coming our way soon, especially at prices that would sway anyone but early adopters to grab one. But if you really want OLED and live in Japan, better grab one while they’re still around.
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.