UPDATE: No more Panasonic plasma panels
Here's the official statement we've received this afternoon from Panasonic.
On reports the company is ending its development of plasma display panels, it says:
'Regarding the growth strategy for the TV set business, the company is currently looking into the product and regional strategies from a number of perspectives. Regarding the PDP business, Panasonic will continue to develop and deliver value added products focusing on the best picture and new essential features.
'The company has been holding launch events of its new 2013 products all over the world. The new products are very much appreciated for their enhanced design and best picture quality by dealers and editors. We will continue to meet our customers’ requirements in our future PDP products.'
And on the subject of the availability of Panasonic OLED TVs as a commercial products:
'Regarding the establishment of the business and commercialisation of OLED, we will decide while watching the progress of the development, but nothing is decided at the moment.
'The RGB all printing method developed by Panasonic and announced at CES is the most suitable method for performance cost and large screen OLEDs.
'However, there are still issues that need to be overcome in the technology for mass production, and from now on we will accelerate the development, establish the mass production technology and work to enhance the level of completion.'
Panasonic has developed its last plasma display panel, a senior official has confirmed to reporters.
Speaking at the launch of the ZT60 TV in New York – the model is sold here as the ZT65 – the vice president of Panasonic Display, Kiyoshi Okamoto, told The Verge that plasma panel development has ceased, and that the new flagship set uses 'the last plasma panel' to come out of its research and development operation.
How much has Panasonic spent on its plasma project? Click here for the answer
However, he also said that the company will continue to make and sell TVs at least into next year – in line with information we were previously given under embargo – as the company had a responsibility to customers to continue production and sales.
Okamoto says there are no plans to restart plasma development at any time in the future, and that 'OLED is one of the key future products' for the future. As previously reported, Panasonic has an OLED development partnership with Sony, but Okamoto said the company is continuing to study demand for such screens before announcing its plans.
He did, however, suggest that Panasonic may concentrate on business applications for OLED at first. That would be in line with company president Kazuhiro Tsuga's suggestion of moving away from selling consumer products and becoming more of a supplier of solutions to other industries, part of his Midterm Management Plan.
Business sales are thought to be more profitable for the company than consumer operations, and it wants to be sure it can make money from domestic OLED TVs before offering them for sale.
Okamoto also said that the company would continue to advertise the superior picture quality of plasma over LCD/LED TVs, but said Panasonic had invested too heavily in plasma, and should now now invest more in LCD, especially in the marketing of the sets.
We've asked Panasonic HQ in Osaka for a statement of its intentions in the TV market, and will update as soon as we have any further information.
Panasonic president Kazuhiro Tsuga has laid out his three-year strategy for returning his company to profit, and committed it to getting its TV division back into the black.
But he has a wider vision of where Panasonic will be in 2016: no longer a maker of consumer products, but working with partners to provide complete solutions, as you can read in our report on Panasonic's Midterm Management Plan.
Panasonic has responded to reports it's set to exit the plasma TV business, saying that 'we are looking into a variety of options, but nothing has been decided at the moment.'
The full statement says that 'The content of the report regarding our Plasma Display Panel (PDP) business is not something announced by Panasonic.
'In regard to the PDP business, Panasonic will continue to deliver value added products, proposing new ways for our customers to enjoy their TVs. This includes taking advantage of PDP features such as the touch pen function as well as the big screen and high picture quality.
'In addition, for non-TV use, we are expanding our Business to Business (B2B) opportunities for the PDP business with products such as the Interactive Plasma Display.
'Regarding the growth strategy for the TV business, we are looking into a variety of options, but nothing has been decided at the moment.
'Regarding new products for 2013, in follow up to our global announcement in January 2013 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in the US, we are holding subsequent local product launch events worldwide. Panasonic has been enforcing global business, aiming to sell value added products with better design and high picture quality that meet the needs of our global customers.
'There will be no change of service support for PDPs, and our dealers should have no concerns about continuing to sell Panasonic PDPs.'
As reported below, Panasonic president Kazuhiro Tsuga is to hold a news conference in Japan at 17.30 tomorrow, during which he will announce the company's medium-term business plan. It's also thought he may comment on Panasonic's more far-reaching plans for structural reform.
Panasonic is set to exit the plasma TV business as soon as next year, as part of a scaling back of its overall television operations.
Reports from Japan say the company is expected to announce next week that it's starting a three-year plan to trim down its loss-making TV business, and that the strategy could see it stopping plasma panel production next year and also reducing the scale of its in-house LCD panel manufacturing.
Panasonic's TV business is currently generating falling sales, with 2015 revenue expected to be less than half that achieved in 2009.
As a result, the division is likely to undergo radical downsizing starting in the next financial year, one element of which will be the ending of plasma production at the company's Amagasaki plant near Osaka, pictured above. That's expected to take place as soon as next year.
Sources at the company told the Japanese press the company would reduce plasma TV production gradually in consideration of relationships with retailers and other partners, and will consider withdrawing from that sector of the market during the 2014-15 financial year.
MORE: Panasonic TX-L50ET60B review – first Panasonic 2013 TV review
It has already reportedly halted development of any new plasma models, and earlier this year announced the closure of its plasma TV factory in Shanghai.
LCD production will also be scaled back. The company's expected to have bought in 70% of the display panels it used this financial year, and next year it will increase that buy-in, using partners such as LG Display.
Its state of the art LCD panel factory in Himeji (above) will be turned over to making more profitable small-size LCDs, for use in devices such as smartphones and tablets.
It's reported that Panasonic is continuing its joint development with Sony of mass-production for OEL/OLED TVs, and hopes to enter this market in 2014-15. Joint manufacturing, or even outsourcing of production, will be used to minimise the company's investment.
Other reports in Japan suggest the company is to sell its healthcare business and use the proceeds to boost its TV business, but it's not clear whether this sale would fund the OEL development program or be used to help offset the costs of the plasma/LCD pull-back.
Panasonic responded to the reports with a statement that no specific decisions have yet been made, but talks on its entire business strategy are ongoing.
Panasonic's 2013 TV range was announced at the start of the year, and includes plasma and LED sets – but how long that will remain the case seems uncertain.
Written by Andrew Everard