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Sony, Panasonic Team Up For Next-Gen OLED Panels

Sony announced on Monday that it has teamed up with another struggling electronics giant, Panasonic, to develop next-generation OLED (organic light-emitting diode) panels and modules for TVs and large-sized displays.

The news arrives as the two rivals try to recover from multi-billion-dollar losses stemming from poor sales and a shaky global economy. OLED printing technology allows manufacturers to create displays that consume less power while offering a sharper picture, but until the current collaboration, the industry has struggled to find an economical way to develop and sell larger OLED screens to the general consumer.

According to Sony, the joint venture will actually utilize the core and printing technologies of both manufacturers so that together they can develop printing "method-based next-generation OLED" technology. This will be the first time two firms have teamed up in a core business, a move that's seen as a turning point for Japan's hard-hit electronics industry.

Sony said on Monday that the integration of their unique technologies will improve the overall efficiency of development, thus allowing the duo to establish mass-production technology by 2013. The resulting tech will be suitable for low-cost mass production of large, high resolution OLED panels and modules -- meaning large OLED HDTVs may actually be within reach of the general consumer.

In addition to the joint development, Sony and Panasonic said they plan to continue to study collaboration in the mass production of OLED panels and modules. They also each plan to utilize their own individual strengths to develop and commercialize their own competitive, high-performance, next-generation OLED televisions and large-sized displays, continuing their long-standing rivalry despite the current collaboration.

Mitsushige Akino, analyst at Ichiyoshi Investment Management in Tokyo, told AFP the deal is too late in the OLED game. "They should have done such a deal five or six years ago," he said.

"The two companies need more drastic measures such as a withdrawal from the TV business altogether. This won't change their severe business circumstances."

Fitch Ratings analyst Alvin Lim added that similar "tie-ups" may be in the offing for Japan's electronics giants. Unfortunately for the likes of Sony and Panasonic, South Korean firms are "way ahead" in developing OLED technology.

"Such tie-ups between fierce competitors in the TV segment were once unthinkable, (but) they are now necessary to claw back the technological and market leadership ceded to Korean manufacturers," said Lim