Hitachi, Canon, Panasonic to work together on flat-panel displays
Share the development woes, share the benefits
IDG News Service - Hitachi Ltd., Canon Inc. and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. (Panasonic) have agreed to a wide-ranging collaboration that will see the three companies share the cost, burden and benefits of development and production of flat-panel displays.
Under the terms of the initial agreement, Canon and Panasonic will each buy a 24.9% stake in Hitachi Displays, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi that already makes small and medium-size LCD panels. The transaction, which is subject to regulatory approval, is expected to be completed before March 31, 2008.
Hitachi said it hopes to accelerate the development of cutting-edge LCD technology through this alliance, which was announced on Tuesday. Competition in the flat-panel display industry is fierce, and there is constant pressure on manufacturers to invest in new and efficient production technology to keep prices low and their screens technologically competitive. But a new LCD plant can easily cost $1 billion or more, so companies are increasingly working together to share the expenses.
Meanwhile, Canon said it hopes to shorten development time and gain a stable supply of LCD panels for its range of digital SLR (single-lens reflex) cameras. It also hopes to develop new types of displays that can be used in its information management products.
Panasonic, which has invested heavily in PDP (plasma display panel) technology for large flat-panel TVs and displays, will invest in a new production line at IPS Alpha Technology Ltd. The company is a joint venture in which Canon and Toshiba also hold stakes, although Toshiba is understood to be in talks concerning its exit from the venture. The new production line will help ensure a stable supply of medium-size LCD panels for Panasonic TVs up to about 40 inches in screen size, above which the company uses PDPs.
The agreement announced Tuesday is the first step in a series of planned moves that will eventually have Canon take control of Hitachi Displays and Panasonic take control of IPS Alpha Technology, the three companies said.
In addition to the LCD alliance, Canon and Hitachi plan to work together on development of OLED (organic light-emitting diode) displays. OLED is a fundamentally different technology from LCD and PDP and has been under development by many display makers for several years. It's viewed by some as a potential replacement for LCD technology because it provides a brighter and richer picture, but a lot of work remains before it can be produced in sufficient volume and at a low enough price to compete with LCDs.
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