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LCOS TV maker gears for comeback

Giant TVs with imaging systems based on liquid crystal on silicon are poised to make a return, says one maker of the technology.

Giant televisions with imaging systems based on liquid crystal on silicon, or LCOS, got a black eye in 2004. First, Intel canceled its LCOS project, and then start-up Brillian lost a contract to provide LCOS televisions to Sears.

Although the image of the technology still needs to be burnished, it's far from vanquished, said Vince Sollitto, the CEO of Syntax-Brillian, the result of a merger between Tempe, Ariz.-based Brillian and the fast-growing, low-cost LCD television maker Syntax.

"We were going to call it Brillian-Syntax, but that spells BS," he said.

Brillian has fixed the problems--caused by technology provided by one of Brillian's partners--found in the imaging systems of its first generation of television sets, he said. New televisions based on the company's technology will come out around the first part of next year.

"The winner in technology up to 50 inches is LCD. The winner above 50 inches is LCOS," he said. "Plasma gets squeezed out."

Brillian is also looking at ways to license its LCOS technology to other television manufacturers. Currently, JVC and Sony produce LCOS televisions. Other manufacturers, such as Samsung, produce projection televisions based on Digital Light Processing (DLP).

One problem facing projection televisions, whether powered by LCOS or DLP, is the size. These fairly large television sets are sold mostly in the United States, which tends to have larger living rooms. Sollitto, however, said that sales may rise in other nations where projection televisions could be used for viewing in public places. Before the merger, Syntax's CEO James Li said that projection televisions could be a big hit in China, particularly with the Olympics coming.

The Syntax-Brillian merger recently closed, but there was little overlap between the two companies, Sollitto said. Syntax produced only LCD televisions and relied heavily on Asian contract manufacturers and designers. Brillian, meanwhile, sold only LCOS sets and developed a lot of its technology in-house.

The two companies started talking when Syntax looked at creating its own line of LCOS televisions, Sollitto said.