Samsung, Sony team up on OLED

Lee Jay-yong, Samsung chief operating officer

Sony is seeking to purchase Samsung Electronics’ next-generation advanced organic light-emitting diode (OLED) flat-screens for its new line of TVs.
Sony wants its Bravia televisions ― to be marketed as early as next year ― to have Samsung’s OLED screens, officials of the Korean technology firm told The Korea Times, Sunday.

“Bravia OLED TVs will be available to consumers from early next year,” said a Samsung official, adding that a deal is being worked on regarding the pricing and supply volume.

The OLED tie-up follows the termination of their seven-year LED joint venture in December after the Japanese firm reported a $1.2 billion annual loss. The latest deal comes because their mutual needs dovetail.

Lee Seung-joon, a Samsung Electronics spokesman, declined to comment officially, but said the company was open to cooperation in OLED screens to boost that business. Hong Ji-eun, a representative of Sony Korea, also didn’t comment.

Top Samsung and Sony officials met last week to deal with details.

Compared to LCDs, OLED TVs are much brighter and thinner because they don’t use bulky backlights.

For any manufacturers of super-thin OLED displays, the biggest obstacle to consumer acceptance is the price.

At a rumored price tag of $10,000, the 55-inch models from Samsung and LG, to be released in the latter half of this year, would be 10 times the price of an equivalent LCD set.

Industry sources say Samsung has offered “better pricing’’ as well as on-time delivery guarantees.

“Samsung wants Sony to see an early recovery. It is still one of Samsung’s top customers,’’ said a source.

Last year, Sony bought some $5.3 billion worth of parts from the Korean firm including flat screens and memory chips such as cutting-edge mobile DRAMs and NAND flashes for use.

Samsung knows a troubled Sony means lower demand for its parts ― it is the world’s top supplier of chips and LCDs.

Sony’s new CEO Kazuo Hira last week suggested his willing to purchase new TV technology. Samsung CEO Choi Gee-sung and Chief Operating Officer Lee Jay-yong, the only son of the group leader Lee Kun-hee, flew to Tokyo to meet with Hirai.

“Sony has keen interest in OLED technology,’’ said Choi upon his arrival at Gimpo International Airport late Saturday.

Sony trail-blazed on OLED technology with the world’s first OLED TV in 2007 but gave up production of the $2,000 TVs in 2010 amid a global downturn. Sony’s popular gaming console PlayStation Vita uses a 5-inch Samsung-produced OLED screen.

Sony established Japan Display in partnership with Toshiba and Hitachi to boost OLED screens. But Japan Display is still focusing on producing small-sized OLED screens that are not for TVs but for smaller gadgets.

“It’s no surprise that Samsung is getting friendly with Sony again in large-sized OLED screens because it’s tough job for Sony to make a comeback in the OLED TV area alone,’’ said the Samsung executive.

Samsung recently separated its display division from the main company to create Samsung Display. The new company will be merged with Samsung Mobile Display (SMD) for the development of OLED displays.

Lux Research expects OLED technology to reach a market size of about $11 billion in 2017 from a meager $1.9 billion last year as the technology is increasing its presence from smartphones to televisions. <Korea Times/Kim Yoo-chul>

news@theasian.asia

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