It was nice while it lasted, Sharp. For about a year, you had the world's largest liquid crystal display (LCD) television set available for sale. No more.
In the consumer electronics (CE) version of "taking things to their logical extreme," Sharp's Korean rival, Samsung, announced yesterday that Sharp's enormous LCD TV will no longer be the biggest kid on the block at 65 inches diagonally. Early next year, Samsung will field its own LCD monster.
Clocking in at 70" diagonally, the new set is so big that, if there's nothing worth staying up to watch, the average adult male could just flip it over and comfortably catch a little shuteye lying diagonally upon it.
The pleasures of one-upmanship aside, though, the decision to manufacture the latest, greatest, world's-largest LCD TV makes considerably less sense for Samsung than it did for Sharp. According to a recent survey of the world's major LCD-makers conducted by DisplaySearch, as of December 2005 Sharp was the world's leading manufacturer of LCD television sets. (Samsung was No. 3 at the time.) In the ongoing war for bragging rights between LCD and plasma TVs, the knock against LCDs has always been that technical factors limited the maximum size of the set. So long as that myth seemed fact, it suggested that the ultra-large screen-size market would remain firmly in the hands of the plasma TV set makers.
Significantly, while it leads in the LCD space, Sharp doesn't even make it into the top five of plasma TV makers. Thus, the company had a real incentive to debunk the myth and prove that manufacturing mammoth LCD sets was technologically feasible. Samsung, in contrast, was reported by DisplaySearch to be the No. 3 manufacturer of both LCD and plasma TVs. Its incentive to invest in the production of an LCD set, designed to steal sales from its already-developed plasma sets, makes a bit less sense to me, especially when you bring in the price factor.
Sharp's 65" LCD set retails for approximately $15,000. Meanwhile, a comparably sized plasma TV can be had for "just" $10,000. Assuming you were the kind of Fool who could happily spend a small car's worth of cash on a TV, which would you choose?
Me, too. Which is, I suspect, why you don't see No. 1 plasma TV-maker Matsushita
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Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company mentioned above.