Mon, Dec 29, 2003 - Page 10 News List

LCOS-TVs may fill gap for consumers

EXPENSIVE DESIRES As LCD and PDP flat-screen televisions are a pricey item for the average consumers, local companies are hoping to provide cheaper alternatives

By Lisa Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

For consumers who dream of having a flat-screen television mounted on their wall but are restrained by a tight budget, the emergence of more price-friendly liquid crystal on silicon (LCOS) TVs may bring them closer to realizing that dream.

LCOS is a projection-TV technology which promises lighter, brighter and thinner sets than conventional rear-projection TV's.

A 50-inch LCOS-TV from Taiwan Kolin Co (歌林) costs NT$119,000, a 20-percent drop from its price of NT$149,000 when it was launched four months ago.

The Taiwanese home-appliance maker first unveiled its LCOS-TV at the Taipei International Electronics Exhibition last year and started commercial production in August, aiming to re-establish the company as the No. 1 TV supplier in Taiwan.

Local rival Sanyo Electric Co (Taiwan) (台灣三洋電機) launched its first LCOS-TV earlier this month. Company officials said local consumers can take a 53-inch LCOS set back home for the price of NT$99,000.

Both Kolin or Sanyo are using the lower prices of LCOS-TVs to compete with plasma display panel (PDP) and liquid crystal display (LCD) TVs.

"To get an LCOS set, you only have to pay about half the price of an LCD-TV of similar size," said Frank Lee (李敦仁), vice president of Kolin. PDP sets are cheaper than LCD sets, but a 46-inch PDP-TV still costs between NT$120,000 and NT$150,000, Lee added.

The emergence of LCOS-TVs in the local flat-panel market is a result of close cooperation between Taiwanese home-appliance makers and the world's two largest made-to-order chipmakers, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) and United Microelectronics Corp (UMC, 聯電).

Kolin uses TSMC's chips for its LCOS sets, while Sanyo uses UMC's.

Teco Electric & Machinery Co (東元電機), Taiwan's second-largest home-appliance maker, also plans to roll out its first LCOS-TV next year using chips from Thinktek Optronics Corp (寬柏光學), said Frank Wu (吳宏庭), Teco's executive of the consumer appliance and services sector. Wu said the company is waiting for more mature technologies before it rolls out its new sets.

"The biggest technological barrier to producing LCOS sets is resolution. And I don't think the technologies are ready now," Wu said.

Thinktek is a joint venture between UMC's subsidiary United Microdisplay Optronics Corp (聯誠光電) and a unit of digital camera maker Premier Image Technology Corp's (普立爾).

Teco's first LCOS-TV will be a 50-inch model sold at a much lower price than it's competitors of about NT$70,000, according to Wu.

Eyeing the potentially booming demand for flat-panel TVs, Intel Corp, the world's largest chipmaker, is also expected to unveil its plans to produce chips for LCOS-TVs at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month.

While LCOS-TVs are already produced by Philips Electronics and RCA, as well as 20 other companies around the world, their high price tags still pose a major obstacle for market demand to take off.

"We're glad to see Intel's participation in this area because that will speed up the price drop of LCOS-TVs," Lee commented.

Sales of Kolin's LCOS-TVs exceeded the company's previous expectations, Lee said. Kolin had been expecting to ship about 30,000 LCOS-TVs and 30,000 LCD-TVs last year, mainly to Europe and the US, with strong demand for large-sized TVs.

Kolin's strategy is to use LCOS-TVs and LCD-TVs to get a stronger market share of the TV market, but stay out of the PDP-TV market, as it is just an interim product, according to Lee.

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