Recognizing the many benefits of LCD TV technology is generating rapidly escalating demand, Toshiba will exit the plasma category in 2007 while expanding its LCD TV mix.
Meanwhile, the company continues to work on its next-generation flat-panel technology, SED, slated for launch in Japan this year. But because U.S. and European marketing plans are still not determined, the technology was not expected to be on display at International CES.
Company officials have recently claimed to have made production breakthroughs that will enable the technology to compete with LCD TV and plasma models that are in virtual pricing free fall today. But the company is skittish about announcing an exact market entry date. In 2007, the company will maintain positions in DLP rear-projection TV and direct-view CRT.
Toshiba's TV marketing VP Scott Ramirez has put together a flat-panel strategy that follows the sales trends that have evolved over the last two years.
He said the market appeared to be on track to hit Toshiba's sell-in sales forecast of 10 million LCDs and 2.9 million plasma units in 2006.
"We're looking for growth next year to 16 million LCD TV units, and 3.4 million plasma units in 2007," Ramirez said. "While we are showing growth in both categories, we show significantly more growth in LCD vs. plasma."
Ramirez said Toshiba has discontinued plans to market plasma displays in 2007 for a number of reasons, including a smaller price step to 1,080p resolution, a wider range of screen sizes, less interference from reflected light on retail selling floors, and no "after-image or burn-in" risk from gaming and static images.
In 2007, Ramirez forecast the majority of U.S. sales in the 32W-inch and larger screen sizes shifting to LCD for the first time.
Over the next 12 months, he said 90 percent of the industry's 37W-inch TV business will go to LCD, and 60 percent of the 40W-inch to 42W-inch business will move to LCD (half of that should be 1,080p). In larger sizes, 45 percent of the 46W-inch and above business will go to LCD this year (90 percent of that will be 1,080p), Ramirez predicted.
"With the shift happening that fast, LCD will become very important in the minds of retail salespeople," Ramirez said. "By 2008, we expect that 70 percent of all televisions sold in home theater screen sizes in the United States will be LCD."
Meanwhile, sales of microdisplay rear-projection TVs (MD RPTV) will see "a slight decline" at 2 million units in 2007, with 49W-inch and below models declining rapidly, he said.
The 50W-52W MD RPTV segment will generate significant business from value-conscious 720p customers, while the 55W-inch and larger segment will appeal to average consumers looking for high-performance, large screen sizes and prices lower than are currently possible for flat-panel TVs, he said.
Toshiba's TV strategy for 2007 calls for a full LCD TV assortment with emphasis on its high-performance REGZA line, and MD RPTVs ranging from 50W inches to 67W inches, with emphasis on 1,080p performance.
The company will continue to offer an assortment of direct-view CRT models — four models in the 20-inch (one), 27-inch (two) and 32-inch (one) screen sizes — to support the needs of Toshiba's dealers, Ramirez said, adding the category will likely shift into an opening price point business for mostly 16:9 models in 2008 and beyond.
Toshiba's 2007 LCD TV models include portables, combos and big screens. This year, everything 26W inches and above will be designated REGZA and will include the company's third-generation PixelPure video processing technology that reduces digital picture noise in standard-definition sources.
The high performance sub-brand will also introduce three high-gloss cabinet designs, all using the company's recessed below-screen Sound Strip speaker system.
One design includes the HL67 and LV67 series. HL67 models will offer 720p resolution in the 26W-inch, 32W-inch, 37W-inch and new 42W-inch screen sizes, and the LV67 Series, which offers 720p LCD/DVD combo models in the 26W-inch and 32W-inch screen sizes.
Key features include the DynaLight dynamic back-light system that automatically adjusts the back-light intensity between dark and light scenes for a "dynamic contrast ratio that is about five times that of the native contrast ratio," Ramirez said. Also included on 720p models is native mode pixel-for-pixel presentation that eliminates unnecessary over scanning or scaling.
The second cabinet design is found in the HL167 Series, which offers 1,080p models in the 42W-inch, 46W-inch and new 52W-inch screen sizes.
Key features in the series include the new "ColorBurst" system that used on all 1,080p models to expand the color gamut 20 percent over a standard LCD panel.
The third cabinet design, which uses a new more-compact Sound Strip II speaker system, is found in the LX177 Cinema Series, which will offer 1,080p models in the 42W-inch, 46W-inch and new 52W-inch and 57W-inch screen sizes.
The series adds the new "ClearFrame" technology that doubles the frame rate at 120Hz (120 fps) using motion vector interpolation to reduce image blurring in fast-motion sequences.
In MD RPTV, the company will offer two series of "TALEN" DLP models, including the HM67 720p 50W-inch model and the HM167 "TALEN 1,080p Full HD" DLP Series including the 57W-inch and 65W-inch screen sizes.
Pricing on all models will be announced later.