Can Crystal LED Be A Game-Changer For Sony?

Sony (NYS: SNE) pulled a rabbit out of its hat yet again with the unveiling of an all-new Crystal LED TV at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year. So will this new breed of LED TVs turn around the company's fortunes? I'm not sure it will.

Let's take a closer look.

A crystal-clear future?
Traditional LCD and LED TVs have their screens illuminated by a backlight. But Sony came out with the Crystal LED display, which eliminates the need for one. How? By placing 6 million tiny LED lights together to form a seamless screen that has triple the contrast and ten times the responsiveness of a traditional display.

But will this new technology benefit the company? First of all, the set on display at CES was a prototype and we don't know when the Crystal LED will be in production. So my guess is that it could take a few more quarters until we see it hit the shelves.

Secondly, the Crystal LED tech is pretty much similar to the revolutionary non-backlit OLEDs, which have the downside of being costly and difficult to fabricate into large screens.

I'm just being hopeful that if Sony manages to lower the production cost of Crystal LED TVs below that of OLEDs; it would give the company a cost advantage along with the technological edge. But even if Sony sells the Crystal LED at a lower price than OLEDs, I wonder if many consumers would be willing to shell out the relatively small premium over cheaper LCDs and LEDs.  

Not a game-changer
Over the years, and especially last year, LCD and LED prices crashed due to intense competition. With the European debt crisis and the U.S. job market in tatters, consumers have become hesitant to shell out top dollar for high-end TVs.

Last year, Sony warned investors of an abysmal quarter after it lost almost $2.2 billion in its television business alone. Also LG Display, which provides panels for parent LG Electronics, experienced the effects of a shakeup in the television space after it suffered losses in its latest quarter totaling $580 million.

However, panel makers were not the lone sufferers. This trend also got reflected in Best Buy's earnings, which nosedived 29%, partly due to deep discounts it offered on televisions.

This all makes me skeptical about how well the Crystal LED would perform. The TV might have a small share of early adopters, but most consumers would prefer to pay for traditional but bigger-screened televisions. This would definitely not bode well for Sony's ailing television business.

The Foolish bottom line
Given how prices of LCD TVs have fallen drastically in the last year, I don't think the introduction of the Crystal LED would make a big difference. Rather, it would only attract a premium price for a short span of time, after which prices would go down just like they did with its standard LED counterpart.

So what do you Fools think about Sony's new TV? Will the company be able to produce it at a lower cost than OLEDs? And would you be willing to buy one? Leave your comments in the box below. And don't forget to add Sony to your Watchlist to stay in touch with the latest news and analysis on the company.

At the time this article was published Keki Fatakia does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Best Buy. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended writing covered calls in Best Buy. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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