LGE has officially launched their 55” OLED TV (55EM9700) which is now on sale in Korea for 11 million Won ($10,330). LGE rolled out samples to major Korean retailers and pre-sale orders are now being accepted at 1400 storefronts for shipment starting in Feburary. This announcement breaks the stalemate with Samsung over which company’s OLED TV technology would ship to market first with announced model number and pricing.
Given LGE’s announcement, it is highly likely that Samsung will soon announce their own OLED TV launch. Soon after, both companies will probably start rolling these TVs out in other countries. However, we don’t believe that this announcement indicates that technical issues and low yield rate of mass production have been completely solved. The tug-of-war over OLED has been long-running between Samsung and LGE after numerous announcements, starting with 2012 CES.
Why did LGE decide to announce their OLED TV on the first working day of 2013? First, we might surmise that LG Display has significantly rasied its production yield rate, thought to be in the single-digit percentage range. However, even the enhanced yield rate is apparently so low that LGE set the price above $10,000, as we anticipated, not at all competitive with current high-end LED-backlit LCD TVs. Sales volume will be very limited at this price, despite the stunning pictures and 4 mm set thickness.
If so, why would LGE hurry to launch it at the beginning of the year, prior to CES? 2013 would be a good year for LGE to raise its brand to the premium level, as 2012 was a difficult year with low-priced TVs and low profits. LGE has been trying for years to put their brand on par with Samsung in consumers minds, attempting to do so over the last few years with their FPR 3D technology and their own Smart TV platform. Being first to market in large-sized OLED is a significant achievement.
History indicates that some leadership status comes from being at the forefront of display technology shifts, as Sony was in CRT TV, Panasonic was in plasma TV, Sharp was in LCD TV, and Samsung was in LED-backlit LCD TV. Who will be the leader in OLED TV? Every TV technology was premature at one time, but the important thing is that the industry tends to remember the first player to develop a new market. LGE may have ambitions to take the initiative in OLED TV, and CES 2013 may be a showcase for that feat, unless Samsung can also announce models with precise availability and price at the show. We expect that LGE may also showcase the first UHD (4K) OLED TV as well at the show to make another technology statement.