Hitachi sides with Panasonic in plasma vs LCD debate

By Matthew Henry

SYDNEY: Hitachi has weighed into the debate over plasma and LCD display technology which erupted two weeks ago when Sony responded to Panasonic’s plasma marketing campaign, with Hitachi backing plasma for big screens.

While not specifically commenting on Panasonic’s controversial pro-plasma advertising campaign, in a statement made to Current.com.au, Hitachi has effectively sided with its fellow Japanese manufacturer in promoting plasma as ideal for televisions over 42 inches and LCD for smaller screens.

“Hitachi remains committed to both flat panel technologies because we recognise they each have benefits suited to different applications,” said Hitachi product specialist, Mark Lawson.

“As an example, many viewers will agree that plasma offers more realistic motion compared to LCD and that this quality is more apparent as the screen size increases. Also, as plasma does not use a backlight system, it is generally agreed that plasma contrast appears to be more dramatic when watching movies in a darker environment.

“Australians love to watch sport and many homes are adding a home cinema room or environment for watching movies, so big screens that have natural motion and deep contrast will be appreciated by these customers. Hitachi recognises this market and offers HD and full HD plasma screens in 42 to 60 inches and will go to larger sizes in 2008.

“As a compliment to plasma, LCD offers outstanding brightness and is available in many sizes from 26-inch and up. As a result, LCD is very versatile and is well suited to many environments and applications from a 32 inch model in the bedroom, to a large screen 42-inch full HD screen in the family room for watching high definition TV or playing Blu-ray movies and video games,” said Lawson.

Panasonic’s campaign featuring Australian Olympian Matt Shirvington quotes consumer research supporting plasma as the technology of choice for TVs 42 inches and larger.

The ads have turned up the heat on the simmering display debate and divided rival panel makers.

Sony recently responded directly to the campaign with an open letter to retailers rebutting claims made in the TV advertisement, while Samsung has called in its lawyers to have the campaign amended for allegedly breaching the Trade Practices Act.

Like Panasonic, Hitachi invests in both plasma and LCD technologies, and recently increased flat panel production of plasma screens to 3.5 million units annually and LCD panels to five million units.

However, Hitachi has sought to defuse the perception that the two technologies are locked in a format war from which one technology will prove the sole victor.

“Currently there is a lot of talk in the media and on the shop floor about a “format war” between plasma and LCD. Hitachi strongly disagrees with this idea,” said Lawson.

“Unlike the real format wars of the past such as VHS versus Beta or analogue versus digital mobile phones, plasma or LCD will not be made redundant by software or network coverage. A full HD plasma or LCD will always be able to show Blu-ray movies, digital TV or any other source you care to hook up to it. By attempting to polarise customers to one technology or the other, you risk making them cautious and ultimately reluctant to purchase.”

The ongoing debate between proponents of the two technologies is overshadowed by the massive commercial interests of the various players.

Hitachi and Panasonic share a strategic interest in plasma manufacturing, having recently struck up a deal to supply each other with panels, while Sony’s strident criticism of plasma is consistent with its exclusive investment in LCD manufacturing through the S-LCD joint-venture with Samsung – another company hostile to Panasonic’s marketing campaign.

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