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Struggling Sony Set To Try Selling OLED TVs

The move comes only days after Sony’s new CEO, Kazuo Hirai, told analysts he was set to cut back Sony’s exposure to TVs after eight years of losses.

At the 2009 CES show, Sony showed a 19″ OLED Monitor. They claimed at the time that they would have full production of OLED TVs within 12 months.

New reports out of Taiwan claim that Sony is looking to partner with AU Optronics to manufacture Sony OLED TVs as the loss making Japanese company tries to develop a turnaround strategy.

“We know that Sony will have to form some kind of alliance with a third party since it would be difficult for it to capture more share in the OLED TV area alone. It’s not a surprise if it is considering a tie-up (with AU),” Nobuo Kurahashi, an analyst at Mizuho Investors Securities, told Reuters.

“For Taiwan and Japan, their interests coincide. If they don’t do anything, there will always be a gap in market share,” he added, pointing to competition from South Korea.

Both Samsung and LG in January displayed prototype 55-inch OLED (organic light emitting diode) screens – which boast sharper images and do not need backlighting – at the CES consumer electronics show in Las Vegas in January. The TVs will go on sale in Australia in September.

Sony, who pioneered the technology with the world’s first OLED TV in 2007, halted production of the $2,000 screens for consumers in 2010. They then moved to focus on 3D TVs, bragging they were set to lead the world in 3D technology but since then both Samsung and LG have strripped 3D TV market share away from Sony.

For any maker of credit card-thin OLED displays, the obstacle to consumer acceptance is price. At a rumored price tag of $10,000, the 55-inch models from Samsung and LG would be ten times the price of an equivalent LCD TV.

The company that can find a way to mass produce at a sharply lower cost would have a headstart over its rivals. Sony, which no longer owns factories capable of fabricating TV size display panels would either have to invest in new plant or tie up with another maker to stay in the race.

OLED is not the only new technology that may be offered to consumers. Japanese makers including Sony are also working on ultra high-definition sets, dubbed 4K. Sony also has what it calls Crystal-LED, which also does away with a backlight, that it says offers richer colors and better contrast than conventional sets.