Posted by: Kenji Hall on March 10, 2006
It should hardly come as a shock that a next-generation flat TV technology developed by Toshiba and Canon is facing delays of a year and a half. After all, the companies’ engineers have struggled for the past couple of years to extend the average life of an SED (which stands for surface-conduction, electron-emitter display) TV and lower production costs so they can compete with the high-end liquid-crystal display TV and plasma TV makers.
The companies had originally planned a limited launch this spring in time for this year’s World Cup soccer finals, followed by a full-scale rush before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Now, they’re saying nothing will be available till the fourth quarter of 2007. Oddly enough, this may be a good news for Toshiba. The company is expected to foot part of the bill for a new $1.5 billion plant in western Japan, and delaying this spending would let it focus on other things.
One of those "things" is NAND flash memory chips, which store data on your iPod and cell phone. Toshiba is No. 2 in flash chips behind Samsung, but the company has to burn through more of its cash if it ever hopes to close the gap with its Korean rival. Toshiba and U.S. partner SanDisk will reportedly spend $4.3 billion to start work on a new flash memory plant in Japan by the end of this year. Add to that another billion-dollar investment on an SED TV plant, not to mention the undisclosed sum the company is spending on SED research, and it's no wonder why Toshiba is putting SEDs on the backburner.
For Canon, however, it's a bit of a different story. The $50-billion printer-and-camera maker's charismatic CEO, Fujio Mitarai, has just handed the reigns over to deputy, Tsuneji Uchida, at a time when the company needs to venture into new businesses to keep its stellar growth on track. The wait for SED TVs certainly won't break Canon, but the sets might have given revenues a welcome boost into the stratosphere.