Late last year it was confirmed that Panasonic was leaving the plasma television business and Panasonic plasma stock is now seemingly exhausted in most locations. Samsung sadly is now following suit and the production of Samsung plasmas is due to end in November this year. If you are not a videophile or are not up to date with the market you may be wondering why you should care. The answer is simple, both Samsung and Panasonic plasma's are widely considered to provide the best visual fidelity television within a price range that isn't overly exorbitant (eg: the numerous OLED televisions that often sell for thousands more then what both Samsung and Panasonic flagship plasma's sold for). With the zt and f8500 being the respected leaders for the two companies.
The only real competing tech currently available given the exorbitant cost of OLED televisions (which is a tech still in its infancy) are LCD televisions. LCD televisions include what many painstakingly refer to as LED televisions (which are no more then LCD televisions utilizing an LED light source).
LCD televisions typically fall far behind plasma's in many regards. For instance the black levels of an LCD generally look gray in comparison to a plasma of similar cost, the contrast is notably lower, the motion resolution is worse (which is what lead to the use of frame interpolation, which deviously clever marketing somehow twisted what is a bandage for a flaw into a perceived positive), poor viewing angles when compared to the essentially limitless viewing angles of a plasma, more accurate colors, and the biggest issue I have with LCD's is the poor screen uniformity that plagues all but a select few LCD televisions.
That is not to say that LCD televisions are without there positives. Or more accurately, one main positive which put simply is the brightness advantage LCD has over plasma. This brightness advantage results in better relative performance in brightly lit environments where plasma's look their worse and LCD's their best. Hence for those interested primarily in watching films in a dark or darkened room plasma's continue to be the clear leader and only if one views material mostly in a brightly lit environment would I consider an LCD over a plasma.
Moving forward Panasonic had promised that their new LCD's would be even better then their plasma's. A statement that was doubtful due to the sub par LCD displays that they typically have released, and a statement that has become increasingly ridiculous now reviews for their new displays are now being released (and the results are less then satisfactory for someone looking for a display that exceeds what their plasma's displays are capable of). Likewise, whilst as far as I’m aware Samsung has made no comments as arrogant or spurious as Panasonic has, there is no known 'replacement' that they have planned yet either for their plasma lineup. This leaves LG as the only company still producing plasmas beyond November (and from what I can tell the only company still sinking money into further developing OLED's).
Could this result in LG becoming the go to company in the future for videophiles, it is of course impossible to say. It however would seem rather unlikely given their past of mostly solid but few stand out displays (I also would be surprised if LG didn't stop producing plasma's soon as well). However in the current climate with the potential exception of an unlikely surge of FALD LCD televisions being announced and released, the near future is looking increasingly bleak for those looking for the best visual fidelity available.
Just as Panasonic plasma's are already missed by many videophiles, I am certain Samsung plasma's will likewise be missed. Hopefully LG not only continues producing plasma's, but is able to substantially increase the quality of their plasma's so as they are a comparable product to what has been available with both Samsung and Panasonic plasma's until (and indeed if) OLED displays become a feasible mass product.