4K killed plasma
Panasonic pulled the plug on plasma because of 4K

14 Nov 2013 | Rasmus Larsen |

Two weeks ago, Panasonic confirmed that they will end plasma TV production by December 2013. The announcement did not come as a complete surprise, but why now? Why not next year? 4K killed plasma, according to a report by HDTVTest.

4K killed Panasonic’s plasma TVs

The rumor-mill had shifted into high gear before Panasonic’s official confirmation, so it was obvious that something was going on behind company doors, but the timing was still odd. Panasonic has only exhibited a few early OLED prototypes so far. OLED is not yet ready for the mainstream market, and despite Panasonic increasing focus on LCD panels, South Korean companies have a tight grip on that market.

The final decision most likely came earlier than planned. At IFA in September 2013, Panasonic executives were assuring the press that a 2014 plasma line-up was planned. Fast-forward 2 months to October 31st and Panasonic Japan officially called it quits. The timing of the announcement came as a surprise to even some Panasonic executives. But the TV industry is collectively moving to 4K Ultra HD technology and 2014 is expected to be the year of mainstream 4K models.

Panasonic ZT60
ZT60 will be remembered as the last high-end plasma TV from Panasonic

- “The main reason we have to move on is technology hit a roadblock. We simply cannot make a 4k plasma in a reasonable manner for retail without significant investment…” wrote a Panasonic USA senior employee at HighDefJunkies.

Timing was bad, but Panasonic had no choice. Even if Panasonic had planned to eventually transition to OLED all along, they would probably have preferred to wait a year or two before killing off plasma.

It is technically possible to produce 4K plasma panels, even 8K plasma panels, but “technically possible” is not the same as feasible. It is a major technological challenge to make plasma cells small enough to fit over 8 million pixels (3840x2160 aka 4K) into a 55 or 65 inch plasma panel. And even if Panasonic achieved it technically, EU’s strict energy regulations would make it close to impossible to market consumer 4K plasma TVs.

If you want to read more about the technical challenges jump to HDTVTest’s excellent report.

Panasonic’s future is 4K and OLED technology, but even though there is genuine excitement for OLED in the industry, most industry experts still consider Panasonic’s exit a loss for the TV industry.

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