Canon expands into TV market

Written by Geoff Richards

October 6, 2005 | 07:38

Tags: #brightside #camcorders #cameras #canon #display #flatscreen #imled #lcd #oled #sed

Companies: #samsung #toshiba

Canon has joined forced with Toshiba and plans to launch 40-50 inch flatscreen TVs based on Surface conduction Electron emitter Display (SED) technology as early as next year. Canon President and CEO, Fujio Mitarai, told assembled journalists at the Canon Expo in Paris yesterday: "We have big plans for the digital television business. I am happy to announce that next year we will begin the marketing of SED television products."

Currently, Canon is the world's largest manufacturer of cameras and copiers, with sales over nearly 26 billion euro. Mitarai wants to see that grow to over 40 billion euro - a 60 percent growth - by 2010, and next generation display technology is central to the Japanese company's growth strategy.

The move has raised eyebrows amongst analysts, who rightly point out that Canon has little experience in the field. Question marks also exist over the viability of SED technology: tens of billions of dollars are already invested in plasma and LCD factories in the Far East, dominated by experienced AV companies such as Samsung who will not take competition from Toshiba / Canon lightly.

While SED displays are capable of vastly improved contrast ratios compared with traditional LCDs - Toshiba have already announced a 100,000:1 prototype - the LCD manufacturers could fight back, with interest, by licensing BrightSide Technologies'
LED backlight technology. This can beat SED at the black end of the luminance scale, while also producing highlights some ten times brighter. Existing LCD panels can be used, as the design merely replaces the CCFL backlight with an array of ultra bright, white LEDs.

Canon are also exploring other display technologies, and plan to invest heavily in Organic LEDs (OLED), replacing the small LCD screens on their digital cameras, printers and camcorders as early as 2007. OLED screens are ideal for these applications, as they produce bright, colourful images and do not require a backlight like LCD panels do. Current OLED screens work best in small sizes, such as the small 2-3 inch displays on such devices. TV-sized OLEDs have heat problems and suffer from short lifespans.

Mitarai predicts there will be 100 million digital cameras on the market by 2008, of which a quarter would be made by Canon. "The global market for digital cameras is expected to continue growing smoothly," Mitarai said. "We intend to secure at least 25 percent of this market and maintain our No.1 position," he added.

Many photography enthusiasts, including several bit-tech staff, will only use Canon cameras - a loyalty that has helped keep Canon at the top of the digital camera market. But would you buy a flatscreen TV from them? Discuss.
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