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Sony halts OLED TV sales in Japan

Citing sluggish demand, Sony ends sales of its 11-inch OLED TV in Japan, though the XEL-1 will remain available overseas.

Weak demand has forced Sony to put an end to its OLED TV in Japan.

The company is canceling production and sales of the 11-inch XEL-1--which sells for $2,500--in its native country, though Sony said it plans to continue spending on production and R&D in other countries.

Sony shows off its OLED TVs at CES 2007
Sony shows off its OLED TVs at CES 2007. Michael Kanellos/CNET

Unveiled three years ago, the world's first OLED (organic light-emitting diode) TV received praise for its vibrant colors and sharp display. TVs with OLED screens are also ultrathin and more energy efficient than LED or plasma sets. But the XEL-1's small screen and high price virtually guaranteed that the product would never win a huge market share among average consumers.

OLED displays have taken off in cell phones and other mobile devices where the screen sizes are small. But OLED TVs have been difficult and expensive to produce, especially in larger sizes. Though Sony kept promising it would introduce a 27-inch OLED TV, that product never materialized. A Wall Street Journal story from August also noted that Sony's poor financial performance at the time would likely signal an end to the production of future OLED TVs.

Other manufacturers, such as Samsung and LG, have demoed their own OLED TVs at trade shows. But, like Sony, these companies have bumped into the challenge of mass producing such sets. So none of the announced products has actually hit the market.

Sony's exit from the technology could be the nail in the coffin for OLED TV, at least for now, as companies look to other less costly innovations such as 3D TVs and LED backlit LCDs.