OLEDs: Start saving now!

Sony and Panasonic’s joint plans for mass-production of giant OLED screens will start making an impact on availability in 2013. But don’t expect prices to come tumbling down soon. Both Panasonic and Sony will want to recover some of their initial R&D costs, so the retail cost of these 55″ behemoths will be high. Research company iSuppli says that this year, for example, only about 34,000 large-format OLED sets will be produced, and many of these will be for professional, broadcasting users who tend not to be too worried about the price tag.

However, by 2015, says iSuppli, OLEDs will be coming off the production line at a rate of some 2.1 million units a year, with volume output also from the likes of Samsung and LG. And that’s when prices will start moving into ‘affordable’ ranges for mass-buying. Panasonic’s newly-appointed president, Kasuhiro Tsuga, speaking on June 28, hinted as much to local journalists in Tokyo, saying that his task was to get his ailing TV set business back on a firm footing within 2 years. Indeed, most analysts expect Panasonic’s TV division to start moving into profitability early in 2013.

Few doubt that the OLED sets will be ultra-desirable. They are truly wafer thin, at about 4mm (the same ‘thickness’ as a sheet of glass) and half the thickness of today’s iPads (an iPad 2 is 8.8mm).  And their ‘brightness’ has to be seen to be believed.

But they’re not going to be cheap, unless $10,000 is considered affordable. This still means there are plenty of sports celebrities, movie and music stars, oil sheiks and Russian oligarchs who will no doubt be early adopters and help start bringing prices down for the rest of us.

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