The Friday Interview: Michael O’Shea, Panasonic Ireland

5 May 2006

Michael O’Shea (pictured) is general manager of Panasonic Ireland is this week’s interviewee.

Which TV format will win out in the longer term — LCD or plasma?

We manufacture both and our view is that both have a place, but we believe the decision comes down to the size of TV. Up to 32 inches, LCD is pretty much the only game in town in terms of flat-panel monitors.
It’s above that that you start to get more debate as to which is the best way to go. LCD models are now appearing in 37 inches, 40 inches and bigger screen sizes.
When choosing a TV of 37 inches or more, plasma is the best choice. It gives you a better picture, in a nutshell: much higher contrast and a better viewing angle.
Response time is particularly important for fast-moving images, sport in particular. The bigger you go, the greater the difference becomes. I haven’t seen a 50-inch LCD yet that I would define as remotely viewable.

Is there room in the market for both?

Both technologies are developing; plasma has moved on. LCD lasts for 50-60,000 hours and plasma is now the same.
We’re quoting in our specs 60,000 hours, which is in excess of 20 years — and that would be watching eight hours of TV a day.

HDTV sets are now available in Ireland, but do you think the man in the street fully understands it?

No, he doesn’t, because there’s been nobody really selling it to him up until the launch of Sky [whose HDTV service is due this summer].
Even then, the number of Sky users is limited and take-up will be restricted until RTE and the BBC start to promote it and that won’t be for a couple of years.

HDTV depends on having a digital signal first. How well prepared is Ireland for this?

The country’s been badly let down by the Government, while this technology has been moving on at pace in other countries.
The Consumer Electronics Distributors Association regularly meets with officials from the Department of Communications and we constantly express our intense frustration that there’s no progress being made on this. We’re getting further and further behind.
We may end up struggling to get products manufactured for the Irish market because we’ll still be asking for TVs with analogue tuners for UHF and VHF.
Look at the latest product brochures from manufacturers — you’ll find that more than half [the TVs] are not available in Ireland.
As a country supposedly dedicated to the digital future and losing sleep about broadband every day, it’s missing a major play out there in digital TV and it’s going to come home to roost.

By Gordon Smith

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