Get ready for the next TV wars. Like most wars, they're going to cost a lot.
Samsung announced today that it will sell its first big-screen OLED TVs in the US starting in the second half of this year. The ES9500 is a 55" model based on the next generation OLED display technology that's thinner, lighter, more energy efficient and performs better than today's LED, LCD or plasma sets.
There's a lot to like in OLED, which will very likely become the dominant TV display technology (easily) within the next decade. One of the things to like best is that when they eventually get into economies of scale on the manufacturing side, OLED should actually be pretty cheap to produce. Meaning one day soon, a big screen cheap TV is going to be astonishing to own. Maybe even something you can roll up in your pocket.
Of course the word cheap as a prefix to the letters TV is one of the things driving the announcement. The estimated US price for this bleeding tech is going to run around $9,500 by the time this thing hits the market. For that money, you could buy 10 of Samsung's current most popular 51" TVs on Amazon.
Cheap TVs are now the bane of the TV industry, and Samsung, as the #1 maker, has challenges to meet if it wants to differentiate itself from the dozens of me-too brands that it finds itself competing with -- not to mention its serious competitors like LG, Sharp, Panasonic and Sony.
Further, the long term transition of turning today's glutted and soon to be outmoded LED-LCD manufacturing plants throughout the world over to OLED is going to cost a lot of won (and yen). Someone's got to pay for it -- well heeled videophiles will likely do their part.
Samsung obviously understands that this is first-mover stuff and openly states that OLED "may take at least two to three years before becoming mainstream" TV technology. "May take" -- heh, good one, guys.
It won't take that long for everyone to want a set like this. But how long will it take before the barbarians crash the gate again with cheaply sourced competition? Or even American companies trying to get back in the electronics game?
Should be an interesting Christmas season, and some people's 2013 Super Bowls are going to look awfully good.