Is future ultra-skinny?

Newer ultra-thin television sets project out from a wall only an inch, or even less.

NEW YORK — Lee Richman installs high-end home theater systems that can cost as much as $170,000. Lately, he's noticed that some of his clients, or their interior designers, are perking up when they hear about ultra-slim TV sets, which come off the wall only about an inch.

The difference between these thin models and regular flat-panel TVs, which generally are about 3 or 4 inches deep, is pretty small. It's nothing like the aesthetic shock that consumers had when flat panels were introduced to replace fat old cathode ray tube TVs.

But in a certain slice of the market — anyone who has subscribed to more than one home decor magazine, perhaps — super slim TVs make people "very enthused," Richman said.

This is textbook business strategy for TV makers. Now that flat-panel TVs have come down from thousands of dollars to as little as $200, manufacturers are pushing high-end alternatives that are slimmer, use less energy and come with other high-end add-ons — and can carry price tags in the thousands again.

The vast majority of TVs sold in the United States today are flat panels. But competition and the recession have sent prices falling, cutting into profits.

Tweaking a product's look is a classic way to re-ignite demand. Think of jeans: Designers stress a boot cut one year, narrow pant legs the next.

Thinness is an easy marketing factor to reach for, since it's tangible and easily measured, just like screen size. Manufacturers also are improving picture quality, but the measurements, like contrast ratio and color gamut, are more difficult for a shopper to understand.

Because 1-inch-thick TVs are new and cost so much — from $1,600 up to $4,000 — it is too early to tell when super-slimness will trickle down to the mass market.