By Matthew Henry on the Gold Coast

GOLD COAST: Panasonic announced today at the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) expo that it will sell its 103-inch plasma – currently the world’s largest flat panel display – in Australia from the first quarter of 2007 for $A68,000.

Panasonic Australia is hoping to interest high-end home theatre junkies and commercial installers with the product, which showcases the brand’s flagship flat panel technologies.

Valued at six million Yen, the 2.4-metre-wide high definition screen weighs 215kg and is equivalent in area to four 50-inch plasmas. The 1920×1080 resolution panel boasts 2.73 million pixels displaying up to 28.8 billion viewable colours, with a contrast ratio of 3000:1.

Panasonic has so far created just three prototypes, one of which is on display at CEDIA currently, and the company will soon start mass production.

“This is the first time we have showcased this plasma in Australia. It has started selling in Japan, and will be available in Australia early next year,” said Panasonic Australia managing director, Toshiro Kisaka, at CEDIA today.

“Not only is this the world’s biggest plasma, but it also has the best resolution possible with 1080 progressive high definition resolution. So this is the flagship in our lineup, and represents years of research and development from Panasonic.”

Panasonic group manager – AV and IT systems, Brendan Frawley, says while the brand will certainly target mainstream consumers with the model, it is unlikely to be sold through the traditional electrical retail channel.

“It was a significant logistical exercise just to get it into here and installing it. This really requires a professional installation, so most sales will probably be to commercial buyers and through systems integraters,” said Frawley.

Panasonic’s CEDIA display stand also features a future technology showcase with a 65-inch Viera HD plasma and Blu-ray player, which company executives suggested will be available shortly but would not confirm a launch date.

According to Frawley, the overall flat panel market has seen tremendous growth in the last 12 months with consistent triple digit growth, and for the first time ever last month the most popular TV size was the over 100cm segment.

“More Australians are buying TVs larger than 100cm than cheap small screen sets, so this is a significant trend,” said Frawley.