Flat TVs In High Demand

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The global demand for flat TVs is growing so rapidly it's creating a shortage of liquid crystal displays, not the glut that some had expected, a senior executive at Japanese electronics maker Sharp said Tuesday.

Toshishige Hamano, a corporate senior executive director at Sharp, said the panel supply can't keep up with demand as people switch to larger-panel TVs more quickly than expected.

Hamano acknowledged the plunge in prices for flat TVs was also going faster than expected, and cheaper, lesser-known makers were grabbing market share from major players, including Sony Corp., Samsung Electronics and Sharp Corp.

Last year, so-called third and fourth-tier makers controlled just 28 percent of the global flat-TV market; this year, they control half of that market, said Hamano, who oversees the Osaka-based manufacturer's international business.

The challenge for Sharp, which has scored enormous success in Japan by beating domestic rival Sony to the market here with LCD TVs, is to carry that over to its overseas business, which is rapidly growing, Hamano told a small gathering of reporters in Tokyo.

Sharp hopes to raise its overseas business to about 60 percent of its global sales by 2008, up from the current nearly 48 percent, by focusing on core businesses, including LCDs.

Sharp was able to build a reputation for quality displays with advertising in Japan, where more consumers are generally willing to pay higher prices for electronics. But Hamano said Sharp will take a different tack in the United States by stressing its reputation for ecological and health-conscious products.

"The reasons for our success in Japan won't be understood overseas. The products will merely appear expensive abroad," he said. "Japan is a very strange market. It's unique."
  • David Hancock

    David Hancock is a home page editor for CBSNews.com.

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