Sony and Panasonic are in discussions to co-produce OLED TVs, according to reports this week from Reuters and the Japan Times.
This year sees the launch of big-screen 55in versions of the ultra-thin next generation TVs from LG and Samsung. Sony and Panasonic have both lost market share to their South Korean rivals.
Sony was an early mover in OLED technology in 2007. However, it held back from mass producing it for the home market as the high-tech TVs came with a very expensive price tag. This period also coincided with the global economic downturn.
Sony has also been developing prototypes of its own new technology, similar to OLED in many ways, which it calls Crystal LED.
A report in April this year suggested that Sony was looking to partner with another company, Taiwan’s AU Optronics, to make OLED TV sets. AU Optronics would still be in a strong position to supply the OLED panels for the rumoured Japanese joint-venture.
While the next batch of large OLED TVs are hardly cheap – Samsung’s version could sell for around £5,400 as reported recently – they are seen as a natural replacement for conventional flat-screen technology, offering a picture quality better than plasma and screens that are even thinner and more energy efficient than LED/LCD.
As with any new technology, prices will fall if production hits the right volume and the consumer demand is there.
Reuters quotes from Masayuki Otani, chief market analyst at Securities Japan, who says, "There's no question OLED TVs are going to be the mainstream. The issue is price and size of the displays."
The report also mentions a prediction from research firm IHS Inc, which says that shipments of OLED TVs may grow to 2.1 million sets in 2015, from just 34,000 this year.
Panasonic, which concentrates on plasma for its biggest TVs and LCD for smaller ones, has also been hit badly by falling sales in recent months.
It remains to be seen if the veteran Japanese companies, who have been fierce rivals to date, can successfully collaborate on OLED and catch up with the Koreans by the time the tech goes mass market.