KOREA: 3D technology war is on, will have a winner 'by the end of the year'

Is there a 3D TV technology war between active-shutter and passive glasses systems? You bet – and the head of LG Display reckons it'll all be done and dusted by the end of this year.

The company – the world's second biggest-selling TV manufacturer – may have turned in slightly disappointing results earlier this week, but boss Kwon Young-soo (left) is bullish about the chances of its film-type patterned retarder (FPR) passive-glasses 3D technology becoming the dominant force in the global TV market.

Asked about its rivalry with Samsung, which is backing the same active-shutter frame-sequential 3D system supported by Panasonic and Sony, Kwon said that 'LG will embark on a global sales strategy for our FPR 3D TVs in the third quarter [of this year].'

And, he said, 'By the end of the year, we will see who the winner is: LG’s FPR or Samsung’s active shutter glass.'

Kwon says that whichever technology loses the battle will take a while to fade out of the picture – as he puts it, 'Once the victory is announced at the end of the year, it will take at least one or two years before the defeated is weeded out of the market'.

But he's confident that, by the end of 2012, '3D TVs will replace 2D'.

Among the reasons for Kwon's claims are the supremacy of LG's 3D sets in Korea, where it outsells Samsung two to one, and its strength in the fast-growing Chinese 3D market, where it has more than 44% of all 3D TV sales.

The company unveiled its FPR panel in Beijing in December, showing the importance it places on success in China, and has since 2008 had a joint venture with Taiwanese company AmTran Technology, manufacturing in Suzhou, in China's Jiangsu Province.

The Suzhou Raken Technology plant (above), which includes high-speed lines able to manufacture a TV from scratch in just 40min – more than three times faster than usual – is focusing on sets using the FPR technology, and expects to be making 15 passive 3D models by the end of this year, compared to just three 3D models last year.

3D TVs will account for 30% of the output at Suzhou Raken, and all will be FPR sets, with a focus on models in the popular 42in screen size. Total production at the factory is expected to rise to 13m this year, from 10m in 2010, and it's a major supplier to US top-selling LCD brand Vizio.

At the moment it supplies some 70% of all the sets Vizio sells in the States, having shipped 5m units last year, and expects to ship 7m sets to the company this year.

Suzhou Raken CEO Brian Kim expects FPR TVs to become the industry's mainstream technology in the next twelve months.

Intriguingly, he throws in the information that the company has been approached by Sony with a view to outsourcing production: 'We’ve been in talks with Sony, though we haven’t seen any substantial progress to strike an actual deal.

'Many television makers are joining ranks to expand outsourcing mainly due to cost-saving.'

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Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.