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Electronics giant Panasonic is to cease R&D and shortly production of its famed plasma displays, reckoned by many to be amongst the best in the business. Instead, Panasonic will switch to OLED developments.
Panasonic is not the first high-end manufacturer to admit that it’s tough to maintain a profit margin on the increasingly price-squeezed High Street. Pioneer did much the same a couple of years ago.
But with Panasonic’s enviable reputation for high quality, the news is not all bad. Panasonic Display VP Kiyoshi Okamoto confirmed that its latest ZT60 Smart TV will be the last plasma model to come from its R&D division. Okamoto stressed that Panasonic will continue to produce and sell its latest range of plasma TVs until 2014 at the earliest.
To date Panasonic’s OLED efforts have been limited to a R&D project with Sony.
Panasonic’s financial troubles have not been helped by a decline in sales of TV displays in the US. For the past year sales have suffered in the USA, and are not expected to recover until 2014, according to IHS iSupply. This year’s sales will fall 2.7 per cent, following on from last year’s decline of 5.8 per cent. In pure numbers IHS expects around 36.6 million sets (of all types) to be sold this year, recovering to 37.8 million in 2014.
But the Plasma sector suffered a near-catastrophic sales collapse, down 24 per cent last year (in the US) to just 3.6 million units, and helping Panasonic’s decision to exit the market.