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Picture is fading for projection TVs

Discouraged by lackluster sales for the big-screen technology, Hitachi and Samsung are expressing a dim view of its future.

LAS VEGAS--Samsung has been one of the big backers of rear-projection TVs, but its interest is waning.

"Over time, that (projection TV) will probably go away," S.I. Lee, Samsung's senior vice president of marketing for digital media, said at the Consumer Electronics Show here.

MicroDisplay TV
A 55-inch rear projection TV from start-up MicroDisplay. (File photo from April 2007.) Erica Ogg/CNET

That could be a death knell for the format. Other companies, most notably Hitachi and Sony, have already killed their projection TV lines.

"We were interested in the business until the end of last year," said Makato Ebata, CEO of the consumer business group at Hitachi.

Projection TVs, which blast images onto a big screen with the help of microscopic mirrors, have great picture quality and aren't too expensive. However, they are big. Most manufacturers have sold them only in the U.S.

Markets like those in Japan and Europe don't have the oversized family rooms to accommodate projection TVs.

Samsung came out with thinner versions of projection TVs last year, but they haven't sold well. The TVs are cheaper than LCDs of similar size, but are thicker.

"Do I pay a little more to get thin?" Lee said.

Last month, Sony said it will no longer make rear-projection TVs in order to focus on LCD and OLED technology.