Mixed Messages on LCDs

Many technology pundits agree that LCD screens should become commonplace high-def displays in the near future.

That's the long view. The short term involves often contradictory developments. In late November, LG.Philips LCD announced a massive investment in its seventh generation TFT-LCD fabrication plant. "P7," as the plant is called, will be the first TFT-LCD fabrication plant in Korea's Paju "Display Cluster," according to Business Wire.

The plant should be fully operational by the first half of 2006, with production capacity of 45,000 input sheets per month. The production level should gradually rise to 90,000 input sheets per month. "This phasing of P7 will allow LG.Philips LCD to respond to various market conditions while better managing risk," the announcement stated.

P7 will specialize in producing large panels for 42" and 47" TFT-LCD screens for HDTV displays from 1950 x 2250mm glass substrates, said to be an industry first. LG.Philips has already established its expertise in producing 32" and 37" LCDs at its sixth-generation plant. With the addition of the LG.Philips plant, the Paju Display Cluster is "expected to grow into the world's premier display cluster," with plenty of available real estate for supporting companies serving the large-screen LCD industry.

Corning, Inc. is one company riding the waves of an unstable market for LCD products. In early December, the upstate New York glass maker reported that it would have surplus inventory of LCD glass for the first time in 18 months, the result of reduced demand from Taiwanese manufacturers.

The accumulating inventory was attributed to on slowed sales for LCD TVs and video displays, due to retailers maintaining unrealistically high prices for such products. Corning had originally projected that 6% of all TV sets sold in 2004 would be LCDs, but has revised that figure to 5%. Even so, sales of LCD TVs at retail have almost doubled in the past year from 3% of the total in 2003.