There should still be people who look into the tube, i.e. who still have an old television with a picture tube. Everyone else, however, has long since switched to flat screens, which offer a significantly better and usually larger picture. Because of this, the industry is now past the years of its greatest boom, the transition from one technology to another. The business that is being done now is similar to that with smartphones: Innovations are constantly needed so that customers don’t just buy a new device when the old one gives up the ghost.
As with smartphones, the Samsung group is one of the innovation drivers. The Koreans presented so-called 8K televisions at the Ifa last year. These display four times as many pixels as Ultra HD televisions, and these already shovel four times as many pixels across the screen as HD televisions. The problem with this: There is hardly any content for 8K televisions. 4K is also only offered by streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon or pay channels such as Sky, and not nationwide either. Public broadcasters and private broadcasters are still stuck with HD (2K). As strange as that may sound: “The demand is there,” says Thomas Kahmann from Samsung.
The company is even showing an 8K television with “only” a 55-inch screen diagonal at the Ifa. “Only” because you would actually have to move very close to such a television in order to be able to perceive the high resolution. However, Kahmann argues that it is not just about counting pixels, but also about the fact that more pixels, for example, can represent color transitions more finely and better compensate for image errors that occur when extrapolating image material with a lower resolution.
That is the promise even with 4K devices. Sophisticated algorithms, trained using millions of images, calculate which pixel should be inserted at which point. This works very well now, as tests show. On the other hand, a hype topic of the past years no longer plays a role: 3-D has simply not been able to establish itself in the home – mainly because of the unpopular glasses.
Competitors naturally have a hard time against a heavyweight like Samsung, especially if they want to enter a saturated market like Germany. That is exactly what the Chinese provider TCL intends to do, and it has chosen an unusual approach. The group, the second largest TV manufacturer in the world, but almost unknown here, is launching a smartphone that is supposed to impress with a particularly opulent screen at a moderate price. Head of Marketing Stefan Streit hopes this will make it easier to enter the German market. TCL is something like the Chinese Samsung, he says, “but nobody here knows that”. Especially in the production you have enormous capacities. In order to step out of the background of a pure manufacturer, the group with its 75,000 employees worldwide has formed all consumer products into one organizational unit. It is clear to Streit that this will require staying power. “We are planning this for the long term,” he says. After all: “We already have people in 160 countries,” he says, “only the brand is not yet known.”
Micro-LED technology could soon be affordable
You can’t say that about Philips. Behind it is now a group from the Far East, TPV. But the technical development apart from the screen modules takes place in Gent in Belgium. There, says company boss Kostas Vouzas, “we have people with 25 years of experience in image quality”. Vouzas sees it as an advantage that his company is not tied to one technology. Above all, he means the two competing screen technologies Oled (self-illuminating organic material) and LCD (liquid crystals that have to be backlit). “We can pick the best and work with it,” he says, “and if something new comes up tomorrow, we can use that too.”
It could be soon. At the next Ifa, says Thomas Kahmann from Samsung, his company will probably have miniaturized a technology so that it fits into standard-sized televisions. We are talking about micro-LED technology: microscopically small light-emitting diodes in the colors red, green and blue generate the image. The technology already exists for large screens, but not for normal budgets. Kahmann says that most of the nearly four-meter-high screen walls are installed on yachts. They don’t talk about prices there.