TOKYO (Reuters) -Sharp Corp. said on Friday it would begin selling a 65-inch liquid crystal display (LCD) television, the biggest in the world, encroaching on the turf of Matsushita Electric Industrial and other makers of plasma TVs.
Sharp, the world”s largest LCD TV producer, already markets a 45-inch model and is keen to expand its footprint in the fast-growing market for flat TVs above 40 inches, a segment now dominated by plasma and rear-projection models.
The Osaka-based company said it would launch the 65-inch TV in August in Japan with an expected selling price of 1.68 million yen ($15,520). It plans to introduce the TV in the United States and other overseas markets by the end of this year.
At a packed news conference in Tokyo, Sharp also unveiled a series of new sets ranging from 22 to 45 inches that are equipped with an advanced backlight for improved color production, and said it would launch TVs in the 50-inch range by the end of 2005.
"From small sizes to large sizes, the TV market belongs to liquid crystal displays," Takashi Okuda, corporate director and general manager of Sharp”s audiovisual systems group, told reporters after the briefing.
Sharp”s suggested price is below the 1.85 million yen being charged for Matsushita”s 65-inch model on a retailer”s Website. And unlike Sharp”s TV, Matsushita”s display is not equipped with a tuner, which must be purchased separately to watch broadcast TV.
The announcement could force Matsushita to lower the price of its 65-inch plasma display and may pressure some LCD TV makers as well. South Korea”s LG Electronics, for example, currently markets a 55-inch LCD television for about $19,000.
But it is still too expensive for most consumers and is priced well above some similarly sized sets in the United States, where a plasma TV above 60 inches can be found for under $10,000.
And as Sharp plans initially to produce only 300 65-inch TVs per month, the new set is unlikely to boost profits in the near term. Most of the 4.0 million LCD sets it expects to sell in the current business year to March are in the 20- to 40-inch range.
But introducing the world”s largest LCD set could help Sharp in what has become a heated public relations war.
In March, South Korea”s Samsung Electronics Co. announced it had developed an 82-inch LCD panel. Matsushita, meanwhile, has organized meetings with the media in an attempt to emphasize the merits of plasma over LCD.
"Sharp”s real aim at this point is not to sell a lot of 65-inch TVs. The announcement is a message showing the market that it is making technological advancements," said Hisakazu Torii, director of TV market research at DisplaySearch Japan.
"The real key for Sharp is how much it can cut production costs and lower prices for 45-inch and 37-inch TVs."
Sharp said its 65-inch TV was better than similarly sized plasma sets because unlike plasma models it can produce an image with resolution of 1,920 horizontal by 1,080 vertical pixels.
Matsushita”s 65-inch set, for example, produces 1,366 by 768 pixels of resolution.