Sharp Unveils Big, Flat HDTV

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Sharp unveiled a new range of LCD television sets this week, including a model with a 45-inch screen, the largest yet produced by the company.

The new sets are being launched in anticipation of a surge in domestic sales of big-screen televisions ahead of the Olympic Games, which begin in Athens, Greece, in August. Japanese public broadcaster Nippon Hoso Kyokai is planning to air around 150 hours of high-definition coverage from Athens and all five of the new models announced Monday come ready to receive the broadcasts. Sales of such products have traditionally done well in Japan ahead of major sporting events.

Sharp is expecting to sell 3 million sets during the current fiscal year, which runs from April to March, says Takashi Okuda, general manager of the company's audio-visual systems group, at a Tokyo news conference to introduce the sets. The company hopes to sell more than half of those televisions, around 1.8 million sets, outside of Japan, he says.

High-End Model

At the top-end of the new range is the LC-45GD1 model. The set has a screen capable of displaying a full high-definition picture at 1920 pixels by 1080 pixels. The screen also has a viewing angle of 170 degrees in both horizontal and vertical planes and offers a brightness of 450 candelas per square meter.

Only one LCD TV has a bigger screen: Samsung's 46-inch LTP468W, announced last month at the Home Entertainment Show in New York.

Both the new Sharp set and Samsung's television will go on sale in August. Sharp says it plans to launch its product in Japan on August 1 for $9060, including tax. Samsung says it plans to sell its product in the U.S. during August at a price of $10,000 before tax.

Last week Sharp showed a similar set based on the same panel at a trade show in the U.S. and set a launch date of early 2005 for that market.

Osaka-based Sharp will initially produce 3000 of the televisions per month, it says.

Smaller Screens

The company also announced four other LCD TVs this week, two with 37-inch screens and two with 32-inch screens. The televisions are capable of display high-definition television images at a reduced resolution of 1366 pixels by 768 pixels.

All four are all-in-one models that integrate a terrestrial tuner and a satellite tuner into the space behind the screen. This makes them a little thicker than monitor-type displays but results in one less box sitting under the set. The 45-inch set announced this week has the tuner in a separate box.

The main difference between the models is in the positioning of the speakers. Two of the models, one at each screen size, have speakers mounted to each side of the screen, while the other two models have the speakers attached to the bottom of the screen.

The 37-inch models will cost around $6000 including tax and the 32-inch models will cost around $4700 including tax, Sharp says. The models with side speakers will go on sale in Japan on July 8. The other two are scheduled to hit store shelves on September 1.

Total initial monthly production of the four televisions will be 29,000 units, says Sharp.

All five televisions and their LCD panels are produced at Sharp's Kameyama factory in Japan. The facility features a so-called sixth-generation production line and can handle mother glass--the initial glass sheet onto which the LCDs are built--as large as 1.6 yards by 2.0 yards. It was opened earlier this year and is the world's most advanced LCD factory, according to Sharp.

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