Sharp announces new LCD TVs

Sharp launched a new range of LCD (liquid crystal display) television sets on Tuesday, taking it another step towards its goal of phasing out CRT (cathode ray tube) televisions by 2005.

Like the company's previous range of LCD TVs, introduced under the Aquos brand in Japan in late 2000 and earlier this month in the U.S., the new sets come in three screen sizes: 13, 15 and 20 inches. Compared to those previous models, the new sets have better screens and more features, said Arisa Mori, a spokeswoman for Sharp in Tokyo.

The TFT (thin film transistor) screens have been upgraded to give a wider viewing angle of 170 degrees in both horizontal and vertical planes, compared to 160 degrees in the previous models. The new TVs also feature a PC Card slot which allows users to plug in a memory card from a digital still camera and view pictures on the TV screen, without the aid of a personal computer.

Also new is an optional wireless video transmitter that is capable of sending digital audio and video signals from a fixed unit, like a satellite receiver or VCR, to a companion unit that clamps onto the back of the Aquos LCD units. Based on the IEEE 802.11b wireless LAN system, the 2.4GHz transmitters are powerful enough to send video to any room within an average home, said Sharp.

With the launch of the three new televisions, Sharp now has 23 models of LCD TV on the market, compared to 24 models with CRT screens. The company started pushing LCD TVs aggressively at the end of last year. The three TV sets it announced then were significantly cheaper than the company's previous models -- something Sharp hoped would speed growth in the flat-panel TV market.

At the same time as announcing the cheaper sets, Sharp also first stated its goal to switch totally to producing LCD television sets by 2005.

So far sales are going well, although Sharp has been producing fewer TV sets than originally planned said Mori, declining to specify exact production levels.

Total sales of the three models announced late last year totaled 150,000 units at the end of June, with the small-screen 13-inch model accounting for 55 percent of sales, the 15-inch model taking 15 percent of sales and the 20-inch model making up 30 percent of sales. When they were announced, Sharp said it would produce 30,000, 5,000 and 10,000 units per month of the three sets respectively -- something that would have resulted in 240,000 units being produced to the end of June had the company kept to this schedule.

For the new TV sets, Sharp has set monthly production at 10,000 units for the 13-inch model, 5,000 units for the 15-inch model and 15,000 units for the 20-inch model.

The 13-inch model, LC-13B1, will go on sale in Japan on August 1 at 103,000 yen (US$830). The next set to hit the streets will be the 20-inch model, LC-20B1, on August 10 at 230,000 yen while the 15-inch set, LC-15B1, will go on sale on September 1 at 160,000 yen.

Sharp said it plans to begin selling the sets in Europe in August and in Asia in September this year.

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