Canon and Toshiba to Make SED Flat Panels

Electronics giants Canon and Toshiba have announced they plan to take on the likes and Matsushita, Samsung, Sharp, and Sony by entering the flat-panel television market in 2008. The difference? Canon and Toshiba don’t plan to crank out big-screen LCDs, plasma screens, or rear-projection panels: instead, they plan to build SED TVs, a new type of ultra-thin display which the companies say uses less power than comparable LCD and plasma displays.

SED technology has something in common with old-style CRT displays in that electrons are beamed onto phosphor to produce light. However, instead of having a single electron gun whose discharged are deflected with electromagnetic yokes and continuously strobed across a screen at high speed, SED televisions pack an electron emitter for every pixel the want to represent. This makes the displays considerably thinner than their CRT counterparts.

Toshiba and Canon plan to have limited quantities of SED units available by the end of 2007, with mass production starting in 2008. At this week’s CEATEC show on Japan, the company showed off a 55-inch model sporting full 1080p native resolution, 450 nits of brightness, a 1 ms response time, and an astonishing contrast ratio of 50,000 to 1. No pricing information has been released.

Canon and Toshiba hope the 2008 Beijing Olympics as well as the rise of digital high-definition broadcasting will spur demand for large, flat-screen TVs, and Canon is positioning SED products as a main component of its mid-term business plan. However, price competition amongst LCD manufacturers—who are increasingly bringing native 1080p resolution to the 50-inch screen arena—may create price drops Canon and Toshiba would have trouble competing against with a new technology. The companies have invested nearly $2 billion in the technology, but have already delayed the launch of SED products by more than a year in an effort to make them more cost-competitive with other technologies.

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