By Andrea Chang
2:51 PM PST, January 10, 2014
LAS VEGAS -- Samsung is betting big on ultra-high-definition televisions.
So big, in fact, that HS Kim, executive vice president of Samsung's visual display business, is predicting that ultra-HD sets will soon dominate the consumer market, eclipsing HD TVs -- despite high prices and a lack of ultra-HD content.
"I think it's pretty obvious that consumers are going to choose UHD TVs," Kim said during an interview with The Times at International CES in Las Vegas this week. "The only question is how affordable the UHD TVs are going to be; and as technology advances, the prices will drop. So I think it's very highly likely that consumers will choose UHD TVs, and I think this will happen faster than anticipated."
Ultra-HD, or 4K, television sets are being touted as the next generation in home entertainment, boasting four times the resolution of the HD TV displays found in American households. Manufacturers are hoping to give consumers a reason to replace their current TV sets, touting ones that promise more vivid color and crisper images.
Samsung is increasing its ultra-HD TV lineup to 10 models in this year, compared with three in 2013. The models range in size from 50 inches to 110 inches, with the latter version priced at $152,000.
The company also unveiled curved ultra-HD TVs that it said would be available in the spring.
Other competitors, including LG and Vizio, were also hyping their ultra-HD TVs at CES.
Ultra HD still has a long way to go before it becomes mainstream.
Only 60,000 ultra-HD TV sets were sold domestically last year, with just under half a million projected to reach homes in 2014, according to the consumer electronics industry's estimates.
And other advances in television technology in recent years haven't caught on despite initial hype, notably 3-D TVs.
But Kim is betting that the promise of super-sharp displays and the latest entertainment content will persuade people to upgrade their TV sets, and he said the South Korean tech giant is working to shorten the life cycle of TVs.
"People usually change their phones every two years because new value is being added," Kim said. "In the U.S. on average it takes about six years for people to upgrade their TVs, but if we create more value, maybe they'll upgrade their TVs not every six years, but five or four years."
Joe Stinziano, Samsung Electronics America's senior vice president, said the company doesn't know when ultra HD will gain widespread adoption, but "what we've learned from other transitions with technology is that once the pendulum starts to go, it goes very quickly."
"When we start to hit key price points, then the old technology clearly has no point and no purpose in the marketplace," he said.
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