Big, Bigger, Biggest

The flat-panel "arms race" reached a new level in mid-December, with an announcement from Samsung's display manufacturing division that it had successfully created a 102" –diagonal plasma display panel (PDP).

The size of a front-projection screen, the monster PDP is a huge step up from an 80" panel that Samsung debuted in January 2004, and is approximately four times the size of a 50" PDP. In fact, the prototype 102" display was made from a glass substrate that would normally render four 50" displays. Specifications on the 102" PDP include resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, brightness of 1000 candelas, and a 2000:1 contrast ratio.

Samsung SDI has invested about 30 billion won (approximately US$283 million) in the effort to develop large PDPs. Manufacturing of 80" and 102" PDPs will begin at its plant in Chungchon Province in the first half of 2005. The plant already has two lines producing 42" PDPs at a rate of 130,000 per month. That number could grow to 250,000 per month with the addition of a third production line to be added by the end of the year, according to the announcement made December 16.

Although Samsung expects most of its giant PDPs to be installed in public venues, many of them will undoubtedly go into private homes, despite what will undoubtedly be staggering cost and difficulty of installation. As Robert Frank points out in his excellent article on monster yachts in the December 14 edition of The Wall Street Journal, "with the population of millionaires soaring to more than two million in the US, the rich are finding it harder to set themselves apart. Many are turning to supersized luxury consumer products to rise above the pack. Today's super-wealthy, and the companies that serve them, are creating a whole new category of high-end products that are priced beyond the reach of mere millionaires." The bigger and more exclusive that luxury goods become, the more they are desired by those who can afford them.