Toshiba, Canon delay SED TV launch to 2007

Postponement could create some doubt about the future of the new television technology.

2 min read
Toshiba and Canon have postponed the launch of their anticipated SED televisions until 2007, a delay that could create some doubt about the future of this technology.

The companies said Wednesday that they delayed the date of volume production of SEDs (surface-conduction electron-emitter displays) until July 2007, and the launch of the first SED TV sets won't be until the fourth quarter of that year. A major push on SEDs won't occur until the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The companies showed a prototype of an SED TV set in September 2004, and formed a joint venture to develop and make SED panels in October of that year. Initially, they expected to bring SED televisions to the market in 2005. But due to some manufacturing difficulties, they changed the launch date to the spring 2006.

SED TVs are a combination of conventional CRT (cathode-ray tube) televisions and LCDs (liquid-crystal displays). In conventional CRT televisions, an electron gun fires electrons at a phosphor-coated glass divided into pinpoints to create images. The electrons, however, need to disperse in a large vacuum, which is why TV tubes are so large and bulky.

In an SED television, electrons get filtered into an array of thousands of tips only a few nanometers wide, which then deliver electrons to illuminate the screen. As a result, these TVs can be thin, like LCDs or plasmas. Other companies are producing similar televisions in which thousands of carbon nanotubes fire electrons.

The problem has been cost. In recent years, the prices of competing technologies, LCDs and plasma displays, have fallen much more than the companies anticipated. This has forced Toshiba and Canon to pause and figure out a way to make SEDs cheaper.

"Because SED is better in its picture quality against LCD or plasma display, it does not need to compete only in terms of pricing. But we recognize the need to lower the cost of SED further and close price gaps between SED and other displays," a Canon representative told CNET Japan.

Rivals have predicted this for some time. Yoshi Yamada, CEO of Panasonic North America and a strong proponent of plasma, said in an interview earlier this year that the decline in the price of plasmas and other technologies occurred much faster than SED backers anticipated.

Currently, Matsushita, which is better known for its Panasonic brand worldwide, leads the plasma display market, while Samsung, LG.Philips LCD and Sharp dominate the global LCD market. All of these players announced plans to enhance manufacturing capacity in recent months. This could further depress LCD and plasma prices.

For Canon and Toshiba, SED is the strategically important component to expanding their presence in the digital living room. Canon, whose main consumer products are printers and digital still cameras, has no TV business right now, and Toshiba has been lagging behind Sharp and Matsushita in the flat TV market.

Michiko Nagai of CNET Japan reported from Tokyo.