Sharp aims to convince consumers its TVs go 'beyond 4K'
The once-dominant Japanese company looks for new ways to set itself apart as it battles Samsung and other TV juggernauts.
Richard NievaFormer senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
LAS VEGAS -- Sharp is hoping people really like television images that are, well, sharp.
At the Consumer Electronics Show here Monday, the Japanese television manufacturer announced new TVs with vivid picture quality, called 4K Ultra HD. Sharp, which once dominated the TV market, said it's using "pixel splitting" technology to make images even more fine. The company hopes the new technology will help it regain some of the luster it lost to Samsung and other major TV brands.
Sharp -- along with other TV makers -- is trying to convince consumers that 4K televisions' extra oomph in picture clarity is worth the expense. Spending on such Ultra HD televisions is taking off, according to market research firm DisplaySearch. Shipments of Ultra HD TVs last year rose 500 percent to 6.4 million units, DisplaySearch reported in November. Prices for Ultra HD TVs have declined over the past year. For Black Friday, Samsung offered a 55-inch version for $900.
Sharp faces fierce competition in the 4K market from Samsung, LG and Sony, according to DisplaySearch. In the third quarter of 2014, Samsung had 36 percent market share, LG held 15 percent and Sony followed with 9 percent.
Some critics of hyper-clear picture technology maintain that the human eye can't distinguish a difference between standard 4K pictures and something like Sharp's upgraded image quality. To fight that perception, Sharp brought out cinematographer Wally Pfister, who worked on movies including "Memento" and "The Dark Knight."
"Some argue consumers will take what they are given. As a professional, I won't accept that," he said. "Those details matter."
Sharp will offer its 4K TVs in more than five screen sizes, starting at $750 for the 43-inch version. Google's Android TV operating system powers Sharp's smart TV platform, called SmartCentral 4.0, for connecting to the Internet. Sharp added its own user interface touches to the operating system, which the search giant unveiled in June.
The company on Monday also announced a handful of other products and technologies, including a 70-inch TV in its Aquos line of "super slim" screens that's half an inch thick.
Sharp also showed off a new type of "free form" display technology, which would allow screens to be made that are not just flat and square. Oddly shaped screens could be used inside cars, said Larry Meixner, CEO of the company's US division. For example, a screen could be fitted to the side of a windshield to reduce a blind spot.
"Think of the impact," Meixner said.
Watch this: Sharp breaks the LCD mold with new Free Form Displays