Samsung plots showdown between flat-panel TVs

Samsung and Sony hope to see LCD panels take on PDPs in the market for 50-inch TVs, a Samsung exec said

Samsung Electronics wants to see TVs made using LCD panels compete more closely against those based on PDP (plasma display panel) screens.

PDP and LCD TVs occupy different segments of the flat-panel television market, with PDPs generally used for larger screens, or those that measure more than 40 inches across the diagonal. However, Samsung hopes that a new factory set to start production late next year will permit volume production of LCD TVs with screens that measure 50 inches or more across the diagonal.

"If they lose the final battlefield at 50 inches, I think the future is very cloudy for PDPs," the executive vice-president of Samsung's LCD research and development (R&D) centre, Jun Souk, said at a conference in Singapore. "It's a big problem."

To push PDPs out of the market for TVs in the 50-inch range, LCD makers such as Samsung and Sony had to show they could bring down the costs of larger panels, Souk said. PDP makers faced their own challenges, including proving they could produce screens with full 1080p high-definition in volume. Samsung is counting on a new joint-venture factory it's building with Sony to produce larger panels that can compete against PDP screens at sizes above 50 inches. That factory, being built in Tangjeong, South Korea, is an eighth-generation (8G) factory, using sheets of glass that measure 2m x 2.5m to produce LCD panels -- larger than the panels used by existing plants.

The larger sheets and improvements to the manufacturing process would help Samsung and Sony produce larger panels more efficiently, Souk he said. The partners also expected to get high yields from the plant, making volume production of 52-inch LCD TVs possible at lower costs, he said.

"Samsung is concentrating on large-size panels," Souk said, noting that the company's most advanced plant currently in operation produces 40-inch panels in volume. The same plant -- which produces 1 million panels for LCD TVs every month -- also produces larger sizes in smaller quantities, including panels that measured 70 inches across the diagonal, he said.

When the 8G factory enters production in late 2007, it will lead Samsung's efforts to make TVs that use 46-inch and 52-inch panels a standard in the market place. "We're working very hard to make this happen," Souk said.