Toshiba Freezes OLED Display Production To Focus On LCDs

Jonathan Sutton

Hailed as the future of HDTV display technology, OLED TV has unfortunately lost the developmental and production support of yet another TV maker. According to Japanese business newspaper The Nikkei, Toshiba Corporation has frozen its OLED display project, and will instead focus its resources on producing LCD screens which are in higher demand. Industry analysts surmised that the decision was made primarily for financial reasons.

Toshiba – through its wholly owned subsidiary Toshiba Mobile Display (which was formed after Toshiba purchased Panasonic’s stake in a joint venture) – has deployed 16 billion yen (around £120 million) into setting up an OLED panel production plant at Ishikawa Prefecture in Japan, with the initial objective of mass-manufacturing 1.5 million units of OLED panels every year to be used in mobile phones or HDTV displays.

However, Toshiba’s disappointing financial results in the face of a global economic downturn left the Japanese giant no choice but to reassess its priorities. Since OLED TV is an expensive niche product that won’t achieve mass-market penetration for the foreseeable future, whereas the demand for LCD panels has pretty much continued unabated despite tough market conditions, Toshiba can hardly be blamed for shelving the former to concentrate on the latter in an effort to boost its bottom line. The aforementioned OLED production factory will be retrofitted, and every personnel in the OLED R&D and production line will be reassigned to work on LCD panels.

OLED (or organic LED) TV is an emissive display technology that offers the desirable elements of CRT-like blacks, lusciously realistic colours, super-slim form factor, wide viewing angles and excellent energy efficiency, which is why video enthusiasts are drooling over the prospect of OLED TVs going mainstream. But with Toshiba following Sony’s footsteps (who halted its OLED TV sales and production earlier this year) in quitting the OLED game, the future suddenly looks much more uncertain for the OLED camp, leaving LG and to a lesser extent Samsung as the remaining consumer electronics manufacturers actively developing OLED TVs.