Corning's specialty materials unit posted strong first quarter sales courtesy of Gorilla Glass, which is increasingly found on smartphones and tablets. Corning's next frontier for Gorilla Glass revolves around TVs.
Gorilla Glass sales were $150 million in the first quarter, up 50 percent from the fourth quarter. Corning said Gorilla Glass is on pace to rack up $1 billion in annual sales.
On an earnings conference call, Corning CFO Jim Flaws said that Gorilla Glass, currently only found on Sony TVs, could pick up beginning in May. In May, those Gorilla Glass TVs will make it to so-called big-box stores, outlets that can sell a lot of television sets.
What's unclear, however, is whether Gorilla Glass will get TV traction. For starters, Gorilla Glass makes sense on a mobile device. You need something that can take some abuse. Will consumers, who typically aren't worried about dropping TV sets, pay a premium for a TV with Gorilla Glass?
Given those uncertainties it wasn't too surprising that Flaws wasn't sure how many other TV providers---beyond Sony---will run to Gorilla Glass.
We only have one customer and that is Sony. So I think we will have to see how their models sell. But right now we have no other customers who are working with us to be -- that would be imminent for coming up in the second half.
As I have said before though, I think that if these televisions are well accepted by consumers we might see other people thinking about it. But right now we basically -- our plans are that at Sony in their various models and that is what you will see in the second half.
I have no retail feedback. I don't expect these televisions actually to be in big-box retailers until the month of May.
Corning's playbook here with Gorilla Glass on TV sets is clear. At first, Gorilla Glass wasn't a necessity on a smartphone. But once a few device makers went with Gorilla Glass a lot of others followed. Now Dell, HTC, LG, NEC and Samsung all use Gorilla Glass.
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