I cannot say that I’m shocked, or even remotely surprised, for I think with the passing of Pioneer’s lauded Kuro line some years ago, it was only a matter of time before Panasonic’s plasma efforts would go tits up. And yet, the news has me, and others, feeling a bit melancholy. It’s not that there is anything wrong with plasma displays -it’s arguable they remain the best option for picture quality available today -it’s just that their time has come.

Through plasma we learned that no longer did our displays have to reside atop bulky furniture, but instead could perch upon our walls like art for all to see and admire. Through plasma we learned not to fall asleep watching SportsCenter for fear of waking up and being forced to watch it for weeks over top of Dancing with the Stars, or whatever program you fancied. Because of plasma’s unwavering defense of picture quality it gave us something to argue about when LCD reared its “ugly” head. It even became cool in a sort of Fight Club way to rock a plasma display as the rest of the world clamored for their wafer thin, edge-lit LEDs. To say you had a plasma meant you were in the know, while everyone else was just posing.

But like all good things, it appears plasma’s reign has come to an end as one of its last true defenders, Panasonic, is calling it quits. That’s right, last month Panasonic shuttered all plasma based R&D and took the first steps in pulling out of the plasma marketplace altogether by 2014. Panasonic has even gone so far as to confirm that their yet to be released ZT Series of panels are the last the company will ever produce. At least they’re going out on a high note, rather than fading away into utter obscurity a la rear projection DLP. Still it’s kind of sad, especially knowing how important a role both Panasonic and their plasma making skills played in transforming the home theater and HDTV landscape.

I wish I could say that Panasonic killed the plasma in favor of something better and more exciting, something that will usher in a new era of flat panel supremacy -but I fear I would be lying. I believe the market killed plasma, not something better. Panasonic says they’re focusing their attention -with some help from Sony -on OLED, but that front has proven as grim as the news that plasma is dead. What’s next for one of the industry’s most storied brands? Hard to tell as I feel even Panasonic themselves don’t really know.

In the meantime, for  those of you who demand the very best, it’ll be available come June and it will bear the mark ZT. 

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  • http://www.facebook.com/flyingbacon Keith Adams

    I’m not surprised by this move but it still feels like a blow to the stomach. Plasma offered the best experience in flat panel technology but was out marketed by LCD and ultra thin panels. Panasonic owes it to their shareholders to follow the market demands and you can’t fault them for that. They stayed with it longer than I thought the would.

  • http://twitter.com/ARobinsonOnline Andrew Robinson

    I second your last statement -I thought they would be out of plasma years ago, but they stayed the course. It’s sad, but you had to expect something like this was bound to happen. Thanks for weighing in!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=505212773 Mike Guidotti

    I fear there will be a void of high quality affordable TV’s between Panasonics last plasma and when OLEDs become affordable. People in the market for ST and GT series plasma will have to spend a lot more money to get something comparable and that really is sad.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JamesMVHolmes Jim Holmes

    I have a 50″ Panasonic Viera Plasma and I have been very pleased with it. The colour and brightness seem to be more natural than most display images I am seeing in the stores today. Their ability to process rapid motion images seems to be unsurpassed at this point. The lure of bigger is better has been distracting me for quite some time as the cost of the larger panels goes down but I find competing technologies struggling to achieve the picture quality I already have. I agree with Mike as this is a concern. I suspect that Panasonic’s understated approach to marketing has had an influence on the demise of this technology too.

  • http://twitter.com/ARobinsonOnline Andrew Robinson

    No question plasma is great, but I fear Panasonic’s insistence to back it (plasma) almost exclusively for so long cost them dearly. They were among the last to the LCD/LED party. Not sure if OLED -as good as it supposedly will be -is going to come soon enough to save or heal existing wounds.

  • wheresthewires.com

    Too bad, I have recommended Panasonic plasmas for years and have helped quite a few of my friends with there installs. Sorry to see them go.

  • http://twitter.com/ARobinsonOnline Andrew Robinson

    You’ll still be able to purchase them for some time, they just won’t be developing any new ones. That’s the story anyway…