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A plasma TV that's 1.5 inches thick

Looking to beef up interest in plasma, Hitachi makes a thin one, which the company will debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week.

Thin is in for Hitachi.

The Japanese conglomerate will unveil a 50-inch plasma TV that measures only 1.5 inches thick at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week.

The prototype TV is less than one-third of the usual thickness of a conventional plasma of this size, which ordinarily clocks in at around 5 inches or more, according to Bill Whalen, director of product development at Hitachi.

It will come to market in 2009, he added, and weigh around half as much as a standard plasma. Typically, a plasma of this girth might weigh 90 pounds, he added.

"It could be a new category in plasma," he said.

TV manufacturers still use the conference to compete over who can come out with the biggest TV. Last year, Sharp bested competitors with a 108-inch LCD TV. This year, Panasonic is expected to unfurl a 150-inch plasma TV.

But thinness and industrial designs are heated battlegrounds too. JVC has a 42-inch LCD coming out this year that measures 22 millimeters thick, while Sharp has a 52-incher that measures only 20 millimeters thick. (Release date is as yet unknown.)

Hitachi, though, seems to be putting the most emphasis on the subject. It has 35-millimeter thick LCD TVs coming out this year and 19-millimeter thick LCDs coming in 2009. (Hitachi, however, adds that these thin TVs technically aren't TVs. They are displays. The TV tuner card is in a separate box. Together, the two make a TV.)

A thin plasma will also help Hitachi. The company has been one of the primary backers of plasma. LCD, however, has outsold it.