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Report: Sony's OLED TVs on hold

With losses mounting in its TV divison, the consumer electronics heavyweight is pulling back on production of new OLED TVs, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Nobody, least of all Sony, ever said it would be easy to start cranking out OLED TVs. It doesn't help matters to be in a financial crunch.

So it should come as little surprise that according to a report in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal (subscriber access only), losses in Sony's TV division are driving the electronics giant to put a hold on future OLEDs TVs.

Sony shows off its OLED TVs at CES 2007. That's a 27-inch model in the middle; all the others are 11-inch models. Michael Kanellos/CNET

Citing people familiar with the matter, the Journal says that new OLED (organic light-emitting diode) production would compound the poor performance at Sony's TV division--which looks likely to lose money again for the sixth straight year, meaning a return to profitability is paramount.

Sony's TV division lost 127 billion yen ($1.34 billion) in fiscal 2008, noted the Journal, accounting for more than half of the company's operating losses for the year.

More than two years ago, Sony showed off its OLED TVs, in 11-inch and 27-inch formats, to great excitement, and the company was hopeful to start getting them out the door sometime in 2008. But the 11-inch model sported a $2,500 price tag, versus 50-inch LCD TVs that cost the same or less.

Compared with today's LCDs, OLED displays are ultrathin, suck up less power, and offer better contrast and colors. The technology is already used by cell phones, MP3 players, and other mobile gadgets.

But creating large OLED displays has been a difficult and expensive challenge. Research firm DisplaySearch says that four of every 10 panels that Sony makes for its 11-inch OLED fail to make the grade and can't be sold, noted the Journal.

While Sony is delaying its OLED production, its rivals aren't standing still, though other units have yet to hit the market. LG revealed a prototype of a 15-inch model at this year's CES, but has said it won't make anything larger for another two or three years.

Samsung has also been busy demoing its OLED prototypes, showing off a 31-inch model at CES 2009. But this unit, too, won't likely hit the shelves for a number of years.

The main competition to OLED may still be the old reliable LCD. Prices keep plummeting while the quality of LCD gets better. Newer LCDs are also thinner, chew up less electricity, and can provide brighter and better colors, noted the Journal.