South Korean firm LG Electronics will begin taking orders for its 55-inch OLED TVs in January 2013, with shipments to begin from 4 February 2013. The launch will initially be domestic, with LG retail stores in South Korea beginning to accept orders from consumers. The company has indicated that global shipments will start later in Q1 2013.
The shipments concern LGs flagship OLED model, the 55EM9700, a 55-inch, Full HD OLED TV which will launch at an initial price of KRW 11m ($10,320; €7,819) in South Korea.
At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 2012, OLED was the primary new technology displayed by the two largest global suppliers of TVs - Samsung and LG Electronics. However, initial launch plans for Q3 2012 for both proved impossible to meet, amid issues of low production yield, and the commercialisation of the products has been impacted. As this has occurred, focus has instead shifted to Ultra High-Definition (UHD) technology, with almost all global manufacturers demonstrating and releasing 4K resolution LCD TV screens.
LG has now become the first manufacturer to launch large-sized OLED TVs (Sony launched 11 and 15 inch models in 2009) with Samsung likely to follow suit by the second half of 2013. The question of who launches OLED first is not particularly pressing - both LG and Samsung have demonstrated the technology on countless occasions, and both have mooted similar launching prices. The more pertinent questions are: which company will significantly increase production yield and decrease unit cost first; which company will be most successful in marketing the new technology to consumers; and will other companies join them in producing OLED TVs, or instead to focus on UHD LCD TVs?
Little can be discerned on these key issues at this early stage. That LG is only launching in South Korea initially, and that these orders are just pre-orders, suggests that production is still extremely limited. LG Electronics' previous plan was to launch OLED TVs globally in December 2012, but panel availability postponed this, and IHS now expects global shipments from LG to commence late Q1 - early Q2 2013. Meanwhile, there have been a few OLED announcements from outside of South Korea - one in the form of Sony and Panasonic, who plan to collaborate on OLED technology in 2013 ahead of a speculative 2014 launch and a second from BOE, a Chinese based panel manufacturer, which is now constructing OLED fab in China. With this in mind, IHS expects UHD technology to initially launch at a larger scale than OLED in 2013 and 2014, with a greater range of manufacturers throughout China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan pushing the technology.