The next revolution in TV technology will be delayed: Canon and Toshiba, which had been partnering to sell Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display (SED) screens this Autumn, announced on May 25th that they were postponing the launch to a date yet to be set.
The Canon statement, reported in the Japanese press, says that "...it has decided to postpone for the time being the launch of next-generation flat-panel SED televisions, which the company had intended to release in the fourth quarter (Oct.-Dec.) of calendar year 2007.
"Reasons for the postponement include prolonged litigation currently underway in the United States and efforts to establish mass-production technology aimed at realizing further cost reductions.
"Canon will announce a new launch schedule for SED televisions at a future date."
Toshiba's statement adds that "The decision is based on information provided by Canon Inc., indicating that Canon will not be able to provide SED panels to the original schedule.
"The specific timeframe for the launch of SED TVs cannot be indicated at this moment."
The delay is thought to be closely involved with litigation in the USA brought by Nano-Proprietary, the developer of key part of the SED technology. Nano-Proprietary claimed that, by sharing with Toshiba information regarding electron emissions from carbon nanotubes, Canon broke an exclusivity agreement. As a result, Toshiba ended its equity partnership with Canon in the SED production company.
SED technology was due to produce screens that were lighter, more energy-efficient and capable of much higher contrast ratios than conventional plasma and LCD screens. In fact, the quality was claimed to be much closer to that of good old CRT TVs, thanks to the technology used.
Rather than the CRT's single electron 'gun' firing at the rear of the screen, SED uses one microscopic emitter for each of the three sub-pixels (red, green and blue) that make up a single on-screen pixel, or picture element. So for an HD display of 1920x1080 resolution, an SED panel needs well over six million emitters - hence the need for those nanotubes.
The companies were planning to launch a 55in 1080p SED screen in the fourth quarter of this year, but that is now delayed indefinitely. Some commentators are also suggesting that the plummeting prices of current flatpanel TV technology might also be forcing the companies to find more efficient ways of manufacturing the SED panels, to make them more competitive with existing screens.