Sharp To Re-enter Smartphone Business and Push TV

After a day that was almost exclusively devoted to OLED, the last conference on the day before the show opening was held by the Sharp TV business (happily, there was a separate conference for the home appliances). After the Foxconn takeover of Sharp, the new company bought the UMC business which had been assembling Sharp TVs in Europe and was the licensee of the brand for Europe. Of course, that was a small company to take over and avoided any conflict over a move back to control of the brand in the region, unlike the dispute in the US

JW Tai SharpJW Tai of Sharp. Image:MekoJW Tai, the CEO and President of Sharp, made the opening speech to thank the attendees at the event and to say that “Sharp is Back!”.

Bob Ishida SharpBob Ishida of Sharp. Image:MekoNext Bob Ishida who is EVP of Sharp Corp and the CEO of Sharp Europe. He said he was glad to be back at IFA after five years away. After the Foxconn takeover, the company has been growing again and now TV development is back at ‘full scale’. Sharp’s spirit is still ‘be original’ and make products that are unique to the company.

Sharp wants to develop 8K displays and TVs and what Sharp calls AIoT with smart homes, and smart business solutions as well as advanced display systems.

The Idea of AIoT is to make a combination of AI with the IoT. To make a people-centric IoT system, you need to build around the smartphone, Ishida said, and so Sharp will enter the European smartphone business in Europe in Q2 2018.

Sharp smartphones can exploit the firm’s high quality camera technology as well as its free form display technology. The company also has a strong brand position and a good supply chain from Foxconn.

Sharp also wants to go to 8k in TV and wants to develop a full ecosystem. The company will develop a full signal distribution chain for 8K content that will also be important in medical, inspection, security and other businesses as well as consumers. Sharp will work on capture, processing, distribution and display in 8K.

As well as offering amazing reality, Sharp expects new applications that have not been thought of, yet. 8K will be very useful for security, allowing the identification of individuals in crowds.

Sharp 8K MonitorSharp gave info on its 8K Monitor on this LCD video wall. The very obvious bezels really highlight why LCD is being pushed out of video wall applications. Image:Meko

8K displays will be released in October 2017 in China, Japan (TVs) with Taiwan and Europe getting 70″ monitors later.

There will be a 70″ 8K TV at an ‘affordable price’. The set can upscale resolution, but will also be able to show very high quality images from digital cameras. 85″, 65″ and 60″ 8K sets will also be developed and that cameras and other applications are being developed to help to drive the market.

Sasha Lange is VP of sales and marketing for Sharp/UMC and responsible for the European market. So far the company has only made TVs but now there will be mobile phones as well as audio products and also premium small domestic appliances (SDA)

50″ and above screens are growing in sales and Sharp sells in Japan a 120″ LCD. At the show is the first ultra-narrow bezel 70″ TV and the company will also look at using the Sharp free form concept in its products.

In smatphones, the company will have 120Hz panels to make scrolling text easier to read. The form of the mobile phone may change which could help Sharp. A 27″ 8K monitor using IGZO was being shown at the show. lGZO reduces the power consumption of the display which will help with smartphone battery life, Lange said.

Sharp smartphoneSharp will bring its smartphones to Europe. Image:Meko

The ultrawide ‘selfie’ lens in Sharp’s smartphones helps to reduce the need for a selfie stick and the phones will have optical image stabilisation.

In the SDA segment there will be kitchen and home care products coming with the Sharp brand.

Sharp estimates that there will be €2.3 billion in revenues for 8K by end of 2020 and NHK will start transmitting 8K at the end of 2018 in Japan..

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Booth Tour – CC

Sharp was indeed back and showed a number of innovative displays in their booth. But the big news in TV is the new emphasis on 8K. In October, Sharp will launch a 70″ 8K TV (LV-70X500E Aquos 8K) that is designed to be a worldwide model. It will launch in China first, then in Japan in December, Taiwan in February 2018 and next March for Europe. Sharp will now be the first brand to launch an 8K TV and the most important part of the news is the price: €7,000. While that is still a very expensive TV and will be at the top of the Sharp line, it is a lot less than the 8K products it has sold on a limited basis in Japan to date.

For example, Sharp launched an 8K 70″ monitor in Japan in 2016 for the equivalent of €60,000 (this was being shown as a museum display). A 85″ version which was launched in October 2015 for the Japan market, goes for a ‘whopping’ equivalent of €120,000, so a €7,000 70″ 8K TV is a bargain by comparison. Few specifications on the displays were available but they are HDR capable (HLG and HDR10) and undoubedtly have wide color gamut (probably not by using quantum dots, however). Peak luminance and other features were not revealed. The 85″ 8K was being promoted as the first 8K with an IGZO backplane and it can support HDR, 120 Hz refresh and has 12-bit color processing with a maximum luminance of 1000 cd/m². 60″ and 65″ 8K TV sets are also planned, but nothing smaller.

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As noted in the press conference, Sharp wants to work on the full 8K ecosystem. In its booth, it had an 8K camera from AstroDesign shooting live shots of kids “hamming it up” for the 8K display. Also on display was a prototype of a 27″ 8K monitor (we saw this last year at IFA as well, although then it was private). It supports 120 Hz refresh, HDR and wide color gamut.

Sharp 1Sharp had a live 8K system from camera to display.

Sharp 8K Monitor backWhile Philips used dual DP connections, Sharp’s 8K Monitor prototype is addresed as four UHD Displays. Image:Meko

Moving on to 4K TV, the 120″ model was very impressive. Specs include 384 zone direct backlight, HDR support (HLG and HDR10, we presume), 120 Hz refresh, 800 cd/m² of peak luminance and a native contrast ratio of 4000:1, which is very high indeed. It also supports 24/7 operation so is geared for commercial, not consumer use (and is likely to be very expensive).

A fun product was their upside down TV, which we presume is intended for commercial application like bars and pubs perhaps.

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Also on display was an ultra narrow frame 4K LCD display in a 70″ form factor (also the world’s first, claimed Sharp). It was a prototype. There was also a 13K video wall composed of 6 tiled LCD panels (and used for the press conference).

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Finally, Sharp’s rollable display which can be wrapped around a column, for example, was impressive. (although it has been shown before as a prototype a couple of times before – Man. Ed.)

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