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SI: Is Sony’s XEL-1 OLED TV Inventory Diminishing Worldwide? 3D OLED In 2011?

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Several days ago, Reuters (via engadget) reported that Sony is no longer selling the XEL-1 OLED TV in Japan, a product that many consider to be the future of television display. Let’s be realistic though about the XEL-1; the price was astronomical, and the screen was very small at 11″. It offered an extremely stylish appearance and stunning image quality, as well as a HDMI and a cool remote. However, it has been out since 2007 (however it didn’t hit Europe until 2009), and at one time Sony believed it would lead the way to recovery. In the end, perhaps OLED did spark the imagination of consumers. I don’t believe it was a driving force that shattered profit expectations, which is exactly what Sony really needed at the time it launched. This was another classic example of Sony pushing a product out that is way ahead of its time but is limited in practical usage.


“I want this world’s first OLED TV to be the symbol of the revival of Sony’s technological prowess. I want this to be the flag under which we charge forwards to turn the fortunes around,” then president Ryoji Chubachi told a briefing in October 2007.

Things sure are better for Sony these days, but aside from demonstrating a 3D OLED TV at CES 2010, you can’t really say that OLED is relevant in Sony’s product strategy for the rest of the year. I asked President of Sony USA Stan Glasgow during CES 2010 if there would be any more OLED product this year and he said no. So when I read this XEL-1 announcement it was obvious from my understanding of Sony’s upcoming TV strategy that they aren’t just cutting sales in Japan – it is no longer available for sale on SonyStyle USA’s website, nor online through SonyStyle Europe’s website. Only in stores at this time. I will work to confirm what exactly inventory is like but I honestly believe Sony is going to let the product sell itself out.

My easiest prediction to make is that we may see an OLED refresh with 3D integration from Sony in the first half of 2011, perhaps even being announced at CES 2011. Sony’s 24.5 inch 3D OLED TV demonstration at CES 2010 was rather impressive, and had a more practical screen size. I could see Sony releasing the same screen size in the market. If you read that and think its too much of a gamble, I would consider that it is not any larger of a gamble than the $4,000+ dollar wireless HD XBR10 series was.

OLED TV solves many of the problems some have had with 3D display, since the combination of active shutter glasses and LCD panels (even those that are LED backlit) may not appear as smooth (in motion), colorful, or bright enough for some people. In my observations, 3D feels truly polished and is much brighter and crisper on an OLED. Even Stan Glasgow admitted that OLED was the best way to do 3D, as OLED was direct transmission and didn’t rely on back lighting and all the other reflective methods.

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