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Posted : 2010-10-11 17:59
Updated : 2010-10-11 17:59

LG betting on 3D TVs to combat rivals



US TV maker Vizio to introduce passive glasses 3D TV

By Kim Yoo-chul

LG Electronics has been suffering from a deteriorating presence in its two major markets ― consumer electronics and mobile phones ― which eventually led to a change at the management helm.

And Koo Bon-joon, who succeeds ousted chief executive Nam Yong, seems ready to bet the house on next-generation televisions, including those providing three-dimensional (3D) stereoscopic images and Internet connectivity, will put the Korean technology giant back on track toward respectability.

LG Electronics is widely considered to be the lesser of a contender than rivals Samsung Electronics, the planet’s leading flat-screen television maker, and Japanese heavyweight Sony in the race to gain early leadership in the nascent market of 3D-enabeld televisions.

Although the first 3D television products, which appeared on consumer shelves this year, have yet to develop as serious money-spinners for the companies, many industry experts consider them as the natural successors to the liquid-crystal display (LCD) flat-screen televisions that are conventional today.

LG Electronics thus far has failed to match the buzz generated by Samsung and Sony in 3D televisions, and its lack of available consumer products has been derided by critics.

However, Koo, the brother of LG Group Chairman Koo Bon-moo, seems intent on catching up to its industry rivals fast.

Just a day after assuming the CEO seat at LG Electronics, Koo joined his brother on a trip to the LCD manufacturing complex of LG Display, LG Group’s flat-screen unit, in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, where he received a crash-course on the group’s 3D-related business strategies, company officials said.

``Group Chairman Koo was briefed on the potential of the group’s 3D television business, which they seem to be focusing on as the center of the rebuilding efforts at LG Electronics,’’ said a senior LG Group executive, Monday.

LG Electronics is banking on passive 3D technology for its upcoming 3D televisions, which allows the company to avoid the expensive power active shutter glasses used in the rival products of Samsung and Sony.

To put it simply, passive glasses refer to 3D glasses that do not require a power source to view 3D content and this allows the company further flexibility in providing cheaper products.

However, the insistence on using such technologies prevented LG Electronics from pushing 3D televisions as quickly as its rivals did, and the fact that 3D passive glasses have yet to be proven to deliver consistent picture quality is another concern for the company.

LG is the only major television maker committed to passive 3D glasses and there are concerns that the company’s products may only end up as niche products.

``We are clearly the most advanced company in terms of passive technology and this could help us achieve cost competitiveness against Samsung and Sony,’’ said an LG Electronics official.

``The improving 3D technologies, which have greatly reduced the problems related to the sharpness of pictures and flickering, as well as the quelling fears over health-related issues, also inspires confidence for us.’’

Another senior industry official, who refused to be named, said that LG Electronics’ commitment toward passive 3D glasses may eventually lead to a standard war between the three major television makers.

Finding cohesion with LG Display, LG Chem

In pushing passive 3D technology, LG Electronics will have the full backing of other LG subsidiaries, particularly LG Display and LG Chem, the group’s chemicals and materials unit.

LG Display, which supplies most of the flat panels for LG Electronics’ televisions, will soon jolt the manufacturing of its 3D panels that apply passive technology by more than 50 percent, according to company officials.

LG’s brand of passive 3D technology also seems to have found a customer in Vizio, a leading American television maker. Vizio’s 3D televisions, based on passive glasses, will be on North American shelves by the end of the year, according to LG sources.

``We are moving quickly to push out more 3D panels based on passive glass technology. We are negotiating with a significant number of clients,’’ said an LG Display official.

LG Chem will be providing the films that are used in the processing of passive 3D panels, company officials said.

``We are considering boosting the manufacturing of films for passive 3D panels by early next year,’’ said an LG Chem spokesman.

The global 3D TV market will rise to 50 million by the end of 2015 as the market is moving faster than expected, said a market research firm ABI Research.

Referring to TV makers’ moves to increase their lineups, the growing popularity of 3D movies and rising shipments of gaming consoles that support 3D content, ABI said the 3D television market will keep consistently growing.

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