January 5

'Organic' TVs: The next big thing?

Big is an understatement, actually, of both size and price as companies roll out their researchers’ babies.

By Hayley Tsukayama
The Washington Post

Televisions are a very reliable product for the annual International Consumer Electronics Show, which starts this week in Las Vegas. Top manufacturers such as LG and Samsung always show up with their latest and greatest products for the living room – often with dimensions and features that make confirmed couch potatoes drool.

click image to enlarge

A model poses with LG Electronics’ 105-inch, ultra-HD TV with a curved screen in Seoul, South Korea. The curved screen is supposed to improve the viewing angle. Also showing off bigger, smarter TVs at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show will be Samsung. One of its TVs is 9 feet wide.

The Washington Post

This year, television makers aren’t boasting big new features. Instead, there’s a more of a focus on the sets themselves, both by pumping up the size and by changing the shape of the screen.

LG announced Thursday that it will show off five televisions with OLED screens – OLED refers to the sets’ super-sharp organic light-emitting diodes.

The cream of the crop will be the firm’s 55-, 65- and 77-inch ultra high-definition, curved OLED sets, which the company promises have a “whole new level of picture quality.” The curve in the screen is supposed to improve the viewing angle, and each of the TVs will sport software based on WebOS – the system used to power Palm and HP smartphones and tablets. LG bought the rights to WebOS from Hewlett-Packard early last year.

The company is also showing off a 55-inch flat OLED television and a 105-inch curved Ultra HD set with LCD technology, which is cheaper to produce than OLEDs.

Of course, LG is not the only company looking to make a big impression on the TV market this year. Samsung has announced that it’s releasing new smart televisions that can be controlled by “finger gesture” to change the channel, adjust the volume and pick something to watch. The company also said that it’s increasing the sophistication of its voice-control features, to let users search for things such as weather and stock information while watching television.

Earlier this week, Samsung also announced a 110-inch television to go on sale in China, the Middle East and Europe. It also set a new size record for its product lines. Just in case you haven’t done the math yet: That’s a 9-foot television.

Of course, it’s unlikely that these televisions will be gracing many people’s living rooms in the coming year. Many would barely fit into an apartment.

Some of the most celebrated televisions of past CES expos, particularly the 3-D sets, have yet to take a foothold in the market.

And the price points are high; one of the problems facing Samsung and LG as they try to push OLED is that the manufacturing costs of those sets are high enough to price out much of the consumer market.

Samsung’s older 85-inch, $40,000 model has drawn some pretty fantastic and sarcastic reviews on its Amazon.com page such as, “I was going to fund my daughter’s wedding in Hawaii, but I figured this Samsung TV would last much longer.”

With the Associated Press reporting that the 110-inch television costs $150,000, we can probably expect more snippy comments in the future.

But that’s part of the beauty of CES. It’s all about showing off the extremes of what a company can do – the pride of their research and development departments.

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