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Thinner, faster, lighter, larger: TV makers take cue from competition

Industry affiliates make photos of the new LG 55-inch OLED television during the 2012 International CES Tradeshow, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012, in Las Vegas.  (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Industry affiliates make photos of the new LG 55-inch OLED television during the 2012 International CES Tradeshow, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) ASSOCIATED PRESS

LAS VEGAS — The TV set is hardly going the way of the laserdisc or the eight-track player. But it is fighting for supremacy as consumers' preferred screen, a title that the smartphone, tablet and laptop also are eyeing.

This power struggle is on display here at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show, which opened officially on Tuesday.

The competition to be thinnest, fastest, lightest and largest reveals itself in the newest announcement from LG — a TV set that's even thinner than the world's slimmest smartphone.

At the Korean manufacturer's news conference, Chief Technology Officer Scott Ahn unveiled a 55-inch 3-D organic light-emitting diode television that, at 4 millimeters and 7.5 kilograms, is "the world's thinnest, lightest and largest OLED TV," he said.

OLED technology, made with thin films of organic molecules, is designed to deliver crisper displays, deeper blacks and lower power consumption than LCD, or liquid-crystal display, and LED screens.

LG's new 3-D TVs come in sizes as large as 84 inches and have four times the resolution of current high-definition sets, allowing "for an immersive home cinema experience," Ahn said.

TV manufacturers are hoping that superior image quality and superthin designs will win consumers back to a category that has given up some of the spotlight.

According to the results of a global survey released Monday by Accenture PLC, the percentage of consumers who plan to buy a TV in the next 12 months fell to 32 percent in 2011 from 35 percent in 2010. This decline contrasted with smartphones and tablets, both categories where the Accenture survey revealed an increased percentage of consumers plan to make purchases.

"The battle for consumers' eyeballs and time is intensifying ... and we are starting to see the impact on the TV as a screen in the home," said Mitch Cline, global managing director of Accenture's electronics and high-tech group. He added: "While consumers will no doubt continue to buy TVs, consumers' preferences are shifting. They are rapidly substituting other screens, such as laptops, desktops, tablets and smartphones, to view media content."

Companies such as LG and Samsung Group are tackling this challenge by continuing to make TVs more like computers and mobile phones. They are integrating third-party applications, gesture control technology and cameras for videoconferencing, and facial recognition, which can identify a member of a household and pull up customized apps for that person.

Samsung introduced another twist on Monday: Its new generation of high-end TVs can be upgraded each year with a card that is inserted into the set, allowing consumers to get better picture quality and other improvements.

"Our Smart TV will get smarter each year without having to buy a new TV set," said Boo-Keun Yoon, who heads Samsung's visual display business.

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