***Updated with Pioneer UK comments in post**** Pioneer has announced today, Thursday 12th February 2009, that it will be pulling out of the Consumer display market by March 2010. This is indeed sad news and follows on from the demise of Fujitsu not so long ago in the quality Plasma market. So where does that leave AV fans when it comes to sourcing a quality broadcast standard TV? The rumours have been travelling around the industry for some time now that Pioneer where struggling to make KURO profitable, even though in most enthusiasts opinions they were the pinnacle of flat panel displays. So, to have the eventual announcement today that KURO is now dead, was perhaps expected, but no less of a shock. It seems that the nail in KURO's coffin was the financial market melt down in Q4 and the steady rise in value of the Japanese Yen. These effects have obviously made a bad situation for Pioneer even worse and signalled the end for the display division. Of course as well as the bad news for AV fans, we have to feel sorry for the thousands of employees who will likely lose their jobs on the back of these cuts. In terms of the TV market in the UK many of us have been warning for a while that the stack ‘em high sell them cheap LCD mentality, and a general lack of education in the mass market would see quality and innovation suffer. This was probably not helped by off balanced press looking for bargains instead of actual quality, feeding to the public as a whole that ‘flat panels are all the same'. For AV enthusiasts this was never the case, but the loss of Fujitsu and now Pioneer has left many scratching their heads and wondering exactly where that quality is going to come from now. In terms of where Pioneer go now, their press release (which you can read below) states that Audio products, TV set top boxes and car entertainment is where they will focus their efforts. It's unclear what will happen to their optical disc business at the moment but a partnership deal has been suggested. So it's a sad day and, for a short time, KURO will remain the best TV on the market. It's now a case of ‘wait and see' in terms of display technology. Can LED get to where Kuro left off? Or will one of the few remaining Plasma manufacturers (Panasonic, Samsung, LG) step up to producing screens that can match what we are about to lose? Or will they buy the license to use the Pioneer technology? It will be interesting to see where these events take us. They said 2009 was going to be a hard year and we know that Pioneer won't be the last manufacturer to pull out of the display market. With money getting tight and many Japanese companies having to raise prices by as much as 30% because of the Yen, we may have a very different looking AV market this time next year! **Update** I have just finished a 15 minute conversation with Jim Catcheside, Product manager at Pioneer GB and have asked for clarification on a few points. First of all this announcement only affects Plasma, LCD and front projection technology. The AV Business which includes; Audio and audio-visual amps, Receivers, integrated systems, speakers and BD Players are not affected by today's announcement. “"Phil, first of all, lets put this in context: Plasma was only 14% of our overall global business at Pioneer and although this is a sad announcement, for all our KURO fans (including me), Pioneer have had no other choice than make this decision, particularly within the current global economic climate. Plasma has only been a part of our history for the last twelve years and in consumer TV terms only the last eight or nine. We were first and foremost founded as an Audio brand (speaker manufacturer) in 1937 and it's with this pedigree and heritage that we will be continuing with our other AV products, as well as other areas of the company such as car audio and navigation,” said Catcheside, adding "As stated in our companies announcement, we will continue to sell our current 9th Generation KURO TVs and withdraw from the global display business by March 2010." Although Jim couldn't comment on exactly when the existing production lines will stop producing the current models, I know from previous dealings within the industry that manufacturers tend to be about 2-3 months ahead in terms of production. This, I would speculate means that there should be production of the current lines until at least December this year. Jim added, “Whilst I cannot comment on specific production quantities, the existing G9 models were not due to be replaced until very late in 2009, therefore customers who still want to purchase the best TV in the world can still buy a KURO (whilst our stocks last). Warranty, after sales, both hard and software support including spare parts will continue to be fully supported by Pioneer. Equally, (for the time being) it's business as usual with the full line up of KURO TV's and selected AV products being shown and demonstrated at the Bristol show next week”. So there you have it, some clarification from this morning's announcement and to summarise; The announcement only affects KURO Plasma, LCD and front projection products. The company will still be stocking and selling their plasmas in the UK until the end of the year (or until stocks last) . Audio and audio-visual amps, receivers, integrated systems, speakers and BD Players are not affected by today's announcement and will continue as normal. All warranties and after sales advice will be honoured well after production finally stops on the KURO products. Here is the Pioneer press release in full.