Sometimes the "next-best-thing" isn't. Not for a while, anyway. Sony has announced that it's halting production of its once-highly touted OLED technology flat-screen HD sets in Japan due to an apparent lack of interest (or finances) on the part of Japanese consumers.
Like 3D technology, OLED is trying to create new-technology buzz on a global basis at a time when tens of millions of TV households in many countries have recently purchased HD sets at price points considerably higher than they paid for their analog sets several years ago. And given the longevity of TV receivers in past decades, the small OLED screens (typically 11 or 15 inches) were being offered at price points far higher than much larger LCD or plasma HD/SD units, creating a lack of demand for OLED sets.
OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) displays use organic, carbon-rich compounds that emit light when electricity is applied. The super-sharp imaging does not require backlighting, and the first versions were noticeably thinner than LCD units. But those first OLED sets were also a mere 11 inches diagonally, and the newer sets that are now in production measure only about 15 inches. While these may be ideal for the kitchen counter, they come with a steep price tag.
Although Sony's OLED sales in Japan are set to end after its current inventory is exhausted, the company said it currently has no plans to cease OLED marketing outside of Japan. Whether there will be more interest in OLED technology outside of Japan (which, like South Korea, is usually an early adopter of new technology) is yet to be determined.
Sony's only OLED unit available in Japan (and everywhere else) has an 11-inch screen and typically sells for more than $2,200--more than twice the price of a lot of LCD and plasma 1080p sets available in North America and Europe, and which have screens up to four times larger.
Sony, in 2007, characterized its high-priority interest in OLED technology as "the symbol of the revival of Sony's technological prowess" after a slow start in LCD and plasma HD flat-screen production a few years earlier, according to Reuters.