LCDs - the competition
Costs are decreasing for LCD displays with improvements in manufacturing efficiency and a reduction in the number of components used to make them. Conventional cold-cathode fluorescent lamp (CCFL) backlights are starting to be replaced with LEDs. These are likely to bring LCD display performance on par with OLED panels - making them thinner and lighter with lower power consumption than before.
Most LED backlit TVs can offer a contrast ratio of one million to one (which is the same as Sony's 11 inch OLED TV) and colour reproducibility of 100% of NTSC or better (Sony's is 105%). So whilst OLED displays could offer better specifications such as better image quality and even thinner displays - one wonders whether this is significant enough to sway the customer to purchase OLED TVs - bearing in mind that they are still too expensive for most consumers. LGs 15" OLED TV is reportedly selling for around $2,500 in Korea - For the same price you can purchase Samsung's 54.6" Luxia LED TV which has a depth of only 1.6 inches.
At CES last month Samsung announced their next generation of LED TVs. The 55" Edge Lit LED Backlight prototype is even thinner at 0.28 inch, with touch-screen and 3D capability. It uses 40% less power than a normal LCD TV of a similar size and is mercury free. Prices haven't been announced yet but with the advanced technology they are likely to come in at a heftier price.
It is predicted that 25% of future LCD TVs will come with backlit LEDs which means that displays will be thinner, have higher resolution and faster refresh rates.
What now for OLED displays?
Because of the recent advances with LCD displays, some industry analysts see the future for OLED panels in areas that don't compete with LCDs - such as transparency, flexibility and ultra thinness. Samsung showcased at CES 2010 a 14-inch transparent OLED laptop which could be available in 12 months. They also plan to launch the IceTouch MP3 player with a 2" transparent OLED screen later this year.
Bendable OLED displays have been the topic of prototypes for a couple of years. Last year Sony unveiled a notebook with a bendable OLED display inside the cover. The Universal Display Corporation is looking at a wide use of applications for OLED technology including foldable, electronic, daily-refreshable newspapers. LG Display is evaluating applications for digital signage.
Costs for OLEDs are too high at the moment but many experts feel that technological barriers will be overcome and once OLEDs are mass produced they will come down in price making them more attractive to the consumer.
Technical Analyst Dr Harry Zervos at IDTechEx believes that OLED displays will be able to claim a share of the display market, due to the large effort and investment in OLED technology from companies such as LG, Samsung and Sony. As with most innovative technologies, initial costs of these displays will be higher but the difference will become smaller in a few years as yield and volumes increase.
IDTechEx research finds that those in OLED manufacture are prioritizing large TVs. While many cellphones and PDAs use smaller OLEDs today the margins are better for larger area displays. Kodak's sale of its OLED IP to LG and the purchase of CDT by Sumitomo strengthens East Asia's role in OLEDs and ensures sufficient investment to realize these technologies is secure. In addition, IDTechEx is aware of increasing investment in printed OLEDs in East Asia but most work is still secretive. One source estimates that the first printed OLED TV displays will be available from 2012 onwards.
For more attend Printed Electronics Europe 2010.
Top image: Samsung LED TV