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Panasonic pulls the plug on plasma R&D

The TV maker may be discontinuing research and development on plasma TVs, but it will continue to sell televisions based on the technology

Panasonic is discontinuing any further research and development into plasma TV screens, although it will continue to sell TVs based on the technology into next year.

A company executive confirmed to The Verge Wednesday at an event in New York City what had been rumored since December.

Although Panasonic has stopped its R&D for developing future plasma products, production of plasma models will continue into 2014, Panasonic Display Vice President Kiyoshi Okamoto says. Those comments to verge come after reports in March that Panasonic would halt plasma TV production in 2014.

Panasonic's ZT60 model, offered in a 60- and 65-inch versions and expected to sell for more than $3000, will be the last plasma TV panel developed by the company's R&D arm.

Some of Panasonic's plasma engineers have been shifted to OLED R&D, which is where the company believes its future TV fortunes lie, according to Okamoto.

In withdrawing from the plasma TV business, Panasonic follows a bunch of TV makers who have deserted the technology, including Sony, Vizio, and Pioneer.

Worldwide flat panel TV shipments were down overall last year, but plasma sales were hammered as LCD technology began to dominate the market.

Global LCD TV shipments declined 1 percent over the previous year, to 203 million units, NPD DisplaySearch reported in March. Meanwhile, plasma shipments plummeted 23 percent for the same period.

The growing popularity of LCD TVs has hurt Panasonic, which has invested heavily in plasma. Half the TVs in its 2013 lineup are plasma sets.

Panasonic is expected to continue flogging the quality of plasma TVs over LCDs in its marketing materials, but a growing chunk of those marketing dollars will be funneled to the company's LCD products over the coming months.

Plasma and LCD enthusiasts have clashed for more than a decade over which technology is better.

Plasma TVs are known for having blacker blacks and whiter whites than LCD panels. That edge has been largely erased by improvements in LCD technology.

Early plasma sets had a problem with "burn-in." That's when the faint outline of static image appears on the screen after the display moves on to something else. Burn-in is related to the overheating of the phosphors in the display. As the power demands of plasma TVs declined, so has the burn-in problem.

Motion blur was an issue with LCDs for awhile, but that problem has mostly been solved--although the tech used to solve it has been rapped by film lovers because they make a movie look less cinematic than it does on a plasma screen.

Viewing angles are typically better for plasma sets compared to LCDs.

Although they consume less energy than they used to, plasma TVs still suck up more power than LCDs.

Plasma TVs are typically lower priced than their LCD counterparts--and that gap is likely to widen as plasma models fade into the sunset.


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