Panasonic hopeful for 4K OLED TV launch next year

posted on Monday, 18th February 2013 by Steve May

Blu-ray  4K  OLED 

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Panasonic could launch its groundbreaking 56-inch 4K OLED screen as early as next year. Speculating about a possible timetable for its introduction at the brand's recent pan-European convention, Panasonic UK Senior Manager for the Visual Marketing Group Fabrice Estornel exclusively told Inside CI that he was "hopeful for a launch sometime in 2014." He explained that OLED was currently a "Corporate project" but once turned over to Panasonic's TV division, a more definitive timetable would be announced.

A smattering of 4K displays are expected this year from Sony and LG, but all use tried and tested LED panel technology. 4K, also known as Ultra HD, delivers four times the picture clarity of Full HD screens (3,840 x 2,160 resolution, 8.29 million pixels). OLED TVs have proved painfully difficult to manufacture for early advocates LG and Samsung, both of whom have only shown Full HD models.

Estornel said that Panasonic's unique RGB printing technology would enable the brand to scale up 4K OLED production quickly. "We can print organic elements directly onto the substrate, which should prove advantageous in terms of cost. We are reshuffling our research & development resources and are repurposing our Himeji factory, which was originally designed to make IPS Alpha LCD panels, for OLED production." Estornel added that Panasonic had no plans to market Full HD OLED TVs: "No, we will go straight to 4K," he said. "We just need to invest where we need to invest. We will spend less on plasma, develop more on LED but on the chassis and not the panel, and redirect R&D effort to products like OLED."

Company President Kazuhiro Tsuga is an enthusiastic supporter of the technology, believing that 4K and OLED need to be developed, regardless of cost. "They may not be profitable for our TV business, but we have to go forward," he declared at a post CES keynote briefing in January. "In order to make this a real TV product, to enter mass production, requires lots of investment. This will require some sort of collaboration. The important point is that OLED will develop fast."

To hasten this development, Panasonic has entered into a joint venture relationship with Sony. Estornel says that the two manufacturers "share some of the key technologies in OLED, some common key functionalities," but insists the OLED screens will be quite different. For Panasonic's prototype displays, Sony supplied the thin-film-transistor substrates.

4K Ultra HD Blu-ray development
There is also movement on the 4K content front. The Blu-ray disc association has reportedly now formed a working group to investigate how 4K can be integrated into the Blu-ray specification.

The Format Extension Study Task Force is charged with investigating how 4K resolution and high frame rate (HFR) technologies could be introduced to the format. Criteria includes looking at the technical feasibility of embracing the latest technologies, determining if there is sufficient market need to justify adding them to the specification, and assessing the impact of the amended specification on the current generation of Blu-ray disc players - for example what would happen if a next-gen 4K BD is inserted into a player, would the new feature set be transparent in the same way a 3D Blu-ray is transparent in a 2D player? Once the working group completes its investigations, it will then make recommendations to the BDA's board of directors about possible upgrades to the specification.

Also read:
Panasonic ZT60 plasma TV: The new reference?

Steve May

Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.

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