With Pioneer and Vizio recently announcing their exits from the plasma market, there's been a lot of chatter about the technology's short and long-term viability. Some of plasma's problems are PR related. Lingering questions--justified or not--about burn-in and energy efficiency have become part of the public conscious and remain a stumbling block at point of sale. Ultimately, however, there are more simple economics at play. Far more factories are available to produce LCD displays than plasmas, which haven't been able to maintain their price advantage as margins have eroded and the performance gap between the technologies has narrowed.
But let's not dwell on how we got here. The key question is how can plasma survive? And for better or worse, the answer is really in the hands of Panasonic, the brand that has most closely linked its TV fortunes to the technology. Yes, Samsung and LG make lots of plasmas--and some good ones, too--but both are also well-committed LCD and well hedged should plasma go away (Panasonic makes some LCD TVs as well, but nothing larger than 37 inches, while plasma starts at 42). Alas, with Pioneer's departure--a sad day for those who value great TV picture quality--Panasonic is left to carry the plasma mantle largely on its own.
Can it keep plasma from perishing? Well, I hope it can, because the TV space is already commoditized enough and it would be shame if we went down to one flat-panel technology (sure, OLED is being hyped as the display technology of the future, but it's years away from mass-market adoption). However, Panasonic's got to take make some key moves to keep plasma from running out of gas. Here they are: … Read more