TVs go bigger, flatter and high-def
In 2006, televisions grew bigger and flatter, and they got a fancy new standard: high definition.
Displays delivering a 1080p picture in a 16-9 wide aspect ratio had their coming-out party this year, as more mainstream consumers embraced HDTV, thanks to dropping prices and greater availability of content. (High-definition display width divided by its height is denoted as 16-9 compared with standard definition's 4-3 ratio. The net result is a rectangular, wide-screen format for HDTV panels and content.)
Bigger, consumers and manufacturers agreed, is better. The "acceptable" size of the main TV in a household grew from 32 inches to 40 inches. Those smaller screens were demoted by many to secondary sets in bedrooms, kitchens and home offices, according to Riddhi Patel, iSuppli's principal TV analyst.
The technology inside these bigger displays changed, too. The old cathode ray tube, or CRT, isn't dead yet, but it is on life support with the industry generally endorsing a do-not-resuscitate order. Ready to assume its place is the liquid crystal display, or LCD, TV and to a lesser degree, plasma. Still newer technologies like SED,
laser TV and carbon nanotube displays have emerged, but they are still in the incubation phase.
CRTs lost ground in markets around the globe, including the emerging Latin America and Asia-Pacific regions in 2006. Global shipments fell below 140 million units this year, according to iSuppli, and DisplaySearch reported that for the first time ever, LCD TVs outsold CRTs in Europe during the third quarter.
Once thought to be the future of flat-screen displays, plasma TVs remained the most popular technology for sizes above 40 inches, and shipments were up 38 percent in North America. LCDs, on the other hand, have skyrocketed to popularity worldwide. Globally, LCD shipments increased 99 percent in the third quarter, compared with the previous year, DisplaySearch said. With 40 million units shipped, it's easily the most popular technology for high-definition TV viewing.
Aided by rapid price declines--the average price of a 40- to 44-inch set dropped from just less than $3,500 in late 2005 to about $2,300 by the end of the third quarter--LCD TVs have experienced booming sales, and set shipments in 2006 doubled those in 2005.
Despite that, Panasonic continued to hold a candle for plasma, even building the largest flat-panel display ever--103 inches--to show its commitment to the technology. As a result, it leads the plasma sector, ending the third quarter with 33 percent of the worldwide market, according to DisplaySearch.
Other leading TV manufacturers have bet big on liquid crystal, with Sharp Electronics, LG.Philips LCD and Sony leading the way. But there's a new player in the category long dominated by Sharp: no-name brands, which together have gobbled up much of the company's market share, ending 2006 with 30 percent of all units sold, compared with Sharp's 20, according to iSuppli.
Microdisplay rear-projection TVs, like DLP, LCoS and SXRD, didn't sell as well as many in the industry had anticipated, mainly because of the rapidly dropping prices of LCD and plasma displays. However, 2006 did offer a glimpse of the future of rear projection, as companies such as Mitsubishi showed off RPTVs using laser as a light source, and Toshiba and Canon teased fans with SED (surface-conduction electron-emitter display) sets, both set to debut in 2007.
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