sony xel-1
Sluggish sales blamed for the end of the XEL-1, but company says research and development for export markets will continue

Sony has announced it's bringing to an end sales of its Organic LED TV in Japan. Only one model has been made available, the 11in XEL-1, but despite the set being ultra-thin, its Y200,000 (£1400) price-tag is thought to have put off many buyers.

Now Sony says production for the Japanese market has ceased, and sales will only continue while stocks last. But it says it will continue to invest in R&D and production for overseas markets including the USA and Europe: a spokesman told Reuters "We will continue to consider new products and applications including OLED TVs."

However, some analysts are suggesting the main focus now will be on shifting existing stocks of the luxury miniature TV in those export markets. Sony said that it had a monthly production capacity of 2000 sets, but one industry research company suggests as few as 2000 sets were sold last year.

The OLED TV was announced with major fanfare back in 2007, with the then president of the company saying that "I want this world's first OLED TV to be the symbol of the revival of Sony's technological prowess. I want this to be the flag under which we charge forwards to turn the fortunes around."

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Sony chairman Sir Howard Stringer personally introduced the product to the audience at the 2008 CES, saying that "OLED is the next champion product. It symbolises both where Sony is and its direction for the future."

Yet by last August the company announced that it was delaying the launch of larger OLED screens, and concentrating instead on returning its TV division around after six years of losses.

As Stringer put it in an interview last year, "We got great praise for [OLED], but then you don't sell any. So then, all of a sudden, you have a different problem."

One reason for the high price of the OLED TVs is the low yields possible in production: the screens are difficult to make, and the reject rate is high.

Sony's big Korean rivals, LG and Samsung, are known to be continuing research on mid-sized OLED panels for TV use. Follow whathifi.com on Twitter