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LCD business seeks new drivers amid downturn

Posted: 15 Dec 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:photovoltaic panels  flat-panel TV  LCDs 

With growth in flat-panel TV sales dropping amid the crisis, LCD makers at Samsung are betting on solar and immersive displays to be the most promising drivers of future demand. Meanwhile, the company is shifting its LCD business into survival mode for the downturn with a new focus on cost-effective products.

A Samsung executive said the company's move into large scale production of solar photovoltaic panels may be "almost inevitable." Samsung saw industry growth in flat-panel TVs—the biggest market for LCDs—trending down to single digits even before the economic downturn in September.

"It may be even worse now," said Jun-Hyung Souk, executive vice president of Samsung's display R&D centre. "We have to do something for 2010 and beyond to create the next growth engine," he said speaking at an annual Samsung tech forum here.

Over the last 18 months, Samsung has assembled a large R&D group for solar panels. The company may start by producing bulk crystalline panels because newer thin film technologies may require another two years or more of research.

Although many companies already make solar panels, Samsung has an advantage with its strong brand, cash flow and vertical integration, said Souk. "The more I look into the photovoltaic market, the more I think big companies have to get into it," he said.

Samsung has as many as 16 ageing semiconductor and LCD plants around Kiheung, Korea, that could be ripe for production of crystalline-based panels, he added in a press Q&A.

Solar panels are just one of a handful of ideas that have emerged from "many internal discussions and workshops" seeking new growth drivers, Souk said. Another promising concept is something he called advanced television, an immersive display large enough to fill a viewer's peripheral vision.

Towards that end, the company has already shown prototype 82-inch, 120 Hz displays at ultra high definition resolutions of up to 3840x2160 pixels. Such UD resolution panels could hit production starting in 2015, he predicted.

One growth area not panning out is digital signage which last year accounted for just 13 lakh units, expected to grow to about 31 lakh in 2010. Despite high visibility installations that include bus stops in Seoul, "its not big numbers," said Souk.

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