Canon Halts SED TV Project

Vincent Teoh

Canon announced on 25 May 2010 that they would no longer be pursuing the surface-conduction electron-emitter display (SED) TV technology. After working with Toshiba and others over the past several years, the project has been deemed too expensive for continued production.

Flat screen HD TV technology has been a blessing to many over the years, replacing big, bulky sets with a graceful, slim look. Yet the old sets using CRT technology (cathode ray tube) did have some advantages over today’s plasma and LCD TV sets, mainly in the areas of black level and colour accuracy. SED was developed as a flat screen alternative to LCD and plasma with the blacks and colours of a CRT. As the black-level luminance and colour fidelity on LCD and plasma televisions improve, however, SED represents less of an improvement over current flat screen sets.

SED technology seemed promising when it arrived on the scene in 1999, but the millions spent by Canon and others in research and production have not led to a successful, commercialised SED model. The cost of producing SED TV cannot be brought down far enough to make it a marketable product. Canon’s announcement on Tuesday came as little surprise, due to several delays and the significant costs of the project. There were also legal issues along the way, including a patent infringement suit from US company Applied Nanotech. When Toshiba pulled out of the venture, the financial burden finally became too much for Canon.

Although development of SED TVs has been frozen, Canon is continuing to research SED technology for uses in other areas, such as medical equipment.