The global market for ultra-high-definition (UHD) liquid-crystal display (LCD) panels hit a major inflection point at the end of June, with shipments crossing the half-million mark for the first time ever during a six-month period, according to the latest "LCD Shipments Database" report from information and analytics provider IHS.
Total UHD panel shipments worldwide for the first six months of the year amounted to 568,000 pieces-166,000 in the first quarter, followed by 402,000 in the second quarter. The second-quarter numbers, in particular, reflected a spectacular 142 percent sequential increase, rising by nearly two-and-a-half times sequentially.
Shipments of UHD panels were tracked for the first time during the second quarter last year. The market since then has steadily expanded to its current high-growth phase, marked by an exceptionally sizable sixfold leap between the fourth quarter last year and the first quarter in 2013.
Offering quadruple the resolution of a 1080p high-definition panel, the UHD display is the latest piece of technological wizardry that LCD panel makers are serving up to consumers, in hopes of getting them excited once again about LCD TVs as a whole. Following an extended period of furious growth, the LCD TV industry is settling into its mature phase, with worldwide shipments actually declining on annual basis for the first time last year.
Delivering even sharper images than those already achieved by high-end LCD TVs with light-emitting diode (LED) backlighting technology, UHD panels could inject new vim into the LCD industry. The main hurdle is the high price of UHD TV sets, currently out of reach for most consumers on average.
Innolux from Taiwan was the largest UHD TV panel maker in the first half, supplying 43 percent of shipments to the market, with an extensive product line ranging from 39- to 65-inch UHD panels.
In second place with 36 percent was fellow Taiwanese maker AU Optronics, which produces panels only in the 55- and 65-inch sizes. China Star Optoelectronics Technology was the third-largest maker with 17 percent of the market.
Other UHD panel makers of note include Samsung Display and LG Display of South Korea, which started shipping 55- and 65-inch panels in June in small quantities; and Sharp of Japan, which began very limited mass-production of 60- and 70-inch panels, also in June.
LCD panel market down as a whole in June
Global shipments of large-sized LCD panels overall reached 68.5 million units in June, down 5.1 percent from May but up 4.5 percent from the same time in June a year ago. Market demand remains weak for the panels, and the normal seasonal trends that prevailed in the past do not seem to apply this year.
For instance, the industry usually rebounds at the end of June during the close of the second quarter as orders move to the third quarter, the busiest time of the year for both back-to-school season and the buildup to the holidays in the fourth quarter. No such strength can be discerned this time around, however, so the usual expected growth drivers cannot be relied upon as market developments continue to play out.
Among the three major applications where large-sized LCD panels are used, only the notebook space thrived in June, up 5.5 percent on the month because of an increase in commercial orders.
In contrast, TV panel shipments inched down 6.1 percent, monitors retreated 7.5 percent and tablets shrank 12.2 percent.
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