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Sharp sees HDTV's future mapped out

Sharp recently launched LED-backlit displays. Don Reisinger sat down with the company to discuss the launch and the future of high-definition TVs.

Say hello to the Sharp LED HDTV. Sharp

Earlier this week, Sharp announced that it's bringing a new line of LED-backlit LCDs to the market.

I had the opportunity to discuss the announcements and Sharp's views on the future with the company's senior vice president of marketing, Bob Scaglione, recently. He believes that while the advancements made in this line show Sharp is making a more concerted effort to take the lead in the market, the only way to solidify its position is to fully invest in LED-backlit liquid crystal displays.

"We believe LED is the future," Scaglione said. "We have very aggressive plans to integrate LEDs (light-emitting diodes) in our entire HDTV product line. Sharp plans to be 100 percent LED. By 2011, the entire Sharp product line will feature LED-backlit displays."

It's a bold plan. While LED-backlit displays are widely considered the future in the HDTV market, so far, they're more expensive than LCD high-definition TVs that don't feature LED technology. And in today's economy, price matters.

But it seems Sharp isn't too concerned. The biggest risk it could take, Scaglione asserts, is investing in plasma. To Sharp, investing in LED-backlit displays makes sense--it's the next big thing. But plasma, on the other hand, is on its way out.

"Eventually, some small percentage of the industry will stay in plasma," Scaglione said. "But the number of players will continue to decrease until one or two companies are handling demand on their own. Most companies have seen the light and switched over, but there are a few more catering to the remaining plasma customers."

What about the future?
If plasma is the dying elder, OLED (organic light-emitting diode) is the newborn in the market. It's widely considered the future. And although it's extremely expensive and most companies have shied away from the technology due to price, Scaglione said his company is considering every possibility when it comes to OLED.

"OLED is something we're watching very carefully," Scaglione said. "Although it won't be affordable for at least 5 to 10 years from now, all of the displays showing off the technology are beautiful. But based on price, it's prohibitive. OLED has an opportunity to be a contender, but for the foreseeable future, it's LCD with an LED backlight that will lead the way."

Plasma technology was once all the rage, and now it enjoys just a small percentage of the market. Realizing that and understanding that the HDTV market evolves so quickly, there's a possibility that LED-backlit HDTVs won't be as popular as Sharp expects.

Scaglione disagrees. He believes there's no doubt that LED-backlit displays will dominate the market. Furthermore, he thinks it can happen in an extremely short amount of time.

"LED-backlit LCDs are the buzz on the retail store floor and it probably won't take long for it to take the majority of the sales," Scaglione said. "Many times, it takes less than a year for tech to take control. And we believe LED-backlit displays will be no different."

If Scaglione is correct, the question is not whether LED-backlit displays will take the market lead, but rather will we be happy that it is happening?

Sharp is. Let us know if you are in the comments below.

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