We look at an emerging new order and what it means for the Japanese manufacturers
When you consider where the current dominant forces of the TV market were eight to ten years ago, it’s not difficult to envisage that a new wave of Far Eastern manufacturers will soon be vying for supremacy, in the not too distant future.
Certainly, on the evidence of the International CES 2014, many of the Chinese manufacturers we saw in Las Vegas look more than ready for a full-scale assault on the Western markets.
It seems the timing couldn’t be better for a new order to emerge as we come to a technological crossroads, with 4K set to skyrocket and OLED waiting in the wings. There’s an opportunity to squeeze into a cut-throat market and make their mark.
For the first time ever, Hisense delivered an event on Press Day and the exhibition stands we saw from them and most of the other lesser known Chinese manufacturers were at least the equal of those from the more mainstream brands.
They aren't lagging behind on product ranges
Hisense, themselves, had a product portfolio to match virtually any, including an 85-inch Ultra HD TV, a 65-inch curved Ultra HD TV and, to the shame of some brands, a 55" Full HD OLED TV. Whilst pricing has yet to be confirmed, it’s sure to be very keen.
They weren’t the only ones with OLED either and we saw another 55-inch model from fellow company TCL, who have also been shaking up the US 4K market with TVs starting at under $600.
And when it comes to Smart TV features, the Chinese have taken sensible shortcuts to ensure parity by including ready-made solutions in their ranges. TCL had both Android TVs – much as we saw from Philips – and ones with the Roku TV platform built-in.Built-in Roku TV and an Android platform is Smart thinkingRoku, in particular, has impressed us with its approach to building a very useable interface that is likely only to be eclipsed by LG’s new webOS Smart TVs.
A brand we weren’t familiar with prior to this year’s show, Konka, also impressed us with their range of OLED, ULTRA HD and Smart TVs, which looked for all the world like they were running Windows but it’s likely just a mimic of the tiled screen style.
But, as market forces dictate, if new companies are to emerge something has to give and the some of the current order must make way, but who?
We have no immediate fears for Samsung and LG. Sales for those two companies are extremely healthy, even if profit margins are not. LG, in particular, impressed us with their range of products and innovations at this year’s show and their medium to long term future looks assured.
The story for the Japanese companies doesn’t look so assured, however, and it was only Sony that put up a decent show at CES 2014. The rest, particularly, Sharp had disappointing exhibition stands with almost nothing new to display.
Perhaps most disappointing of all were Panasonic. We had hoped that their decision to exit the plasma market would mean they were now going to focus on OLED to keep their crowns as kings of the picture quality department but they had only a prototype OLED TV on show.
The Japanese will be looking over their shoulders, nervously
Panasonic went on record in 2013 as saying they would have OLED at CES 2014 but it seems they haven’t got sufficient control over the manufacturing processes yet and, much like Samsung, are sitting it out until they can make something affordable.
Panasonic will be attempting to woo the videophile market with their new 800 Series local dimming 4K TV which, whilst it looked impressive during our closed-curtains preview, doesn’t really yet match plasma.
The retail and manufacturing costs of that TV are also likely to be very high so it’s going to have a fight on its hands to compete in what already is a tough market. Furthermore, it’s still only in the prototype stage so we’re not sure when it will launch.
The new regime at Panasonic has proved ruthless in its decision making so far – to the good of the company, we might add – so it’s conceivable that if 4K doesn’t go well for them, they could exit the TV making business, altogether, sad as it would be to see.
That was just a brief look at some of the emerging stories from this year’s CES, click here for lots more.
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