TI announced its 4K strategy in late June, which was amplified and in some cases expanded upon by its OEMs. Fortunately, the company’s Series 2 projector design, intended for release by its OEMs early in 2010, was developed from the start to have the capacity for 4K content. But until Regal announced its defection in May to Sony, TI had little incentive to develop a 4K light engine to enable the feature. With AMC and Regal out of the picture, TI turned to Cinemark, its hometown cinema chain. It was no surprise that TI’s 4K announcement was in tandem with that of Cinemark to use 4K DLP technology in its theatres.
The timing of TI’s 4K technology won’t be overnight. The 4K DMD chip must first be developed, and it is TI’s intent that this chip have the identical footprint as the current 1.2″ 2K DMD. (DMD stands for Digital Micromirror Device – the core technology of DLP.) To do so requires a mirror size slightly smaller than any in its current line of DLP product. If TI can meet this challenge, it will be well worth it. The projector’s internal optics and lenses can remain the same as that of the 2K projector. Notably, Barco immediately took to this capability and announced its intent to produce Series 2 projectors that could be upgraded from 2K to 4K.
The announcement of the future 4K projector caused many exhibitors to rethink their purchase plans. Fortunately for Avatar, to be released in December, exhibitors only need 2K capability to display the 3-D movie. With the understanding that 2K prices will be less than 4K, most exhibitors have not changed their plans to install 3-D for Avatar. In fact, worldwide sales of 2K projectors are said to be keeping up at a healthy pace.
TI has not announced its intended delivery date, although the talk is that 4K prototypes will be available Q3 or Q4 in 2010. In the face of Regal’s rebuff, the company had no choice but to make a pre-mature announcement. Will this affect sales? That, of course, depends on many factors. More said on the installation rate in this month’s section titled Screen Growth.
There remains question about Regal’s decision to go with Sony. Will TI get them back, given its 4K announcement? Current talk is that Sony is having a hard time delivering Regal’s current demand for 3-D projectors, which can’t be very high without financing. No doubt Regal has thrown several hurdles in the path for Sony to meet its feature requirements and performance. Certainly, Sony has no shortage of challenges ahead, including the funding delays DCIP is likely to continue to incur. All of which suggests that TI has plenty of opportunity to win Regal back.