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May 25, 2007 11:27 am

Canon and Toshiba postpone SED TV launch

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Canon and Toshiba said Friday that sales of 55-inch next-generation flat-panel televisions, slated for the end of this year, would be delayed indefinitely due to protracted legal wrangling in the US over patents and difficulties in mass-producing the panels.

Sales of the surface-conduction electron-emitter display (SED) panels, a new piece of technology said to be more energy efficient than existing flat-panel displays, have been hit by numerous delays.

Canon and Toshiba, which have been collaborating on developing the SED screens since 1999, last year pushed back their launch until July 2007, and then again until the end of 2007. On Friday both companies said they were uncertain when they would be able to start selling the TVs.

The move gives Sony more time to develop its 11-inch, 3-mm thick organic light-emitting diode (OLED) TVs, which the Japanese electronics group expects to begin selling by the of the year.

OLED technology, which is not exclusive to Sony, uses the ability of certain organic chemicals to emit their own light when an electric current is applied. OLED screens require no backlight so they can be as thin as 3mm and produce better quality pictures at lower energy cost.

Canon said Friday that “prices of flat panels are declining more rapidly that expected” and that it needed to establish production-related technology and improve the efficiency of its mass production.

SED screens provide very clear colour and also do not require a back-light, reducing electricity usage and materials costs.

Canon has been embroiled in a protracted legal dispute in the US with a company called Nano-Proprietary over SED patents. The US District Court ruled in February that Canon had violated the licensing agreement with Nano-Proprietary, effectively terminating the contract. Canon has said it will appeal this decision.

Canon said Friday that the ongoing lawsuit could have an impact on when it could launch SED TVs in countries other than the US, though it declined to specify which ones.

Analysts expect it will take at least another five years before next generation TVs become commercially viable. The technology is still immature, and the biggest hurdle is the ability to mass-produce larger panels.

“Canon can absorb the risk from investing in these televisions, but at the same time flat panel prices are continually declining and price differences between plasma and LCD TVs are almost non-existent,” said Chizuko Satsukawa, analyst at Standard & Poor’s. “The question is when Canon can start generating revenues from their SED business.”

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