June 4, 2001 Posted: 12:28 p.m. EDT (1628 GMT)
By Douglas F. Gray
(IDG) -- Display vendors this week will show the public what they believe screens of the future will look like at the Society for Information Display's (SID) annual symposium, seminar, and exhibition when they fight for attention with tiny OLED (organic light emitting diode) displays.
OLED displays use emissive technology, meaning they emit light themselves, like a CRT television or a plasma display, eliminating the need for the backlight required by LCDs. By cutting out the backlighting, display makers can create panels that are both thinner and consume less power, said Kimberly Allen, director of technology and strategic research for analyst group Stanford Resources.
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The market for OLED displays is set to explode from a $29 million market in 2000 to a $1.6 billion market in 2007, according to a Stanford Resources report.
Although consumers probably will not see OLEDs in their notebooks for at least five years, the technology will probably make it to PDAs within the next couple of years, Allen said.
In Asia, some companies use the term OELD (organic electroluminescence display) to refer to the same technology.
Currently, Pioneer is the only company with OLED technology on the market. Pioneer launched the first OLED product, a car stereo display in 1998, and Motorola Timeport phone uses a Pioneer OLED display, Allen said.
"There are more products expected this year," Allen said. Products including another car stereo, a handheld game display, and more mobile phones are all expected to be rolled out onto the market this year from various vendors.
However, until prices fall, the manufacturers will not make displays much larger than mobile phone and car stereo displays. "They just don't have the manufacturing technology to make large panels reliably and at a reasonable price," Allen said. "But manufacturing cost is expected to be much lower than that of LCDs somewhere in the near future," she added.
Although OLED is not yet as common as LCD to consumers, there is a lot of development going on behind the scenes. "Every large Japanese display company is involved in OLED," Allen said. There is also a partnership between Samsung Electronics and NEC working on OLED, and Koninklijke Philips Electronics has been working on the technology as well.
Nearly 500 booths will fill the McEnery Convention Center for the display show, ranging from household names like Toshiba, NEC, and Sharp Electronics to lesser known companies including Candescent Technologies and LCD manufacturer Optrex America.
Tohoku Pioneer, a unit of Pioneer, will be demonstrating its three-inch color OLED panel, aimed at PDAs, which it created with Semi Conductor Energy Laboratory. The companies have also teamed up on a 1.8 inch color OLED display that they will be showing.
Optrex America, which was founded as a joint venture between Asahi Glass and Mitsubishi Electric, will also be showcasing its own OLED technology, which it expects to see in production of automobiles, most likely used in displays on stereos and climate control panels, by 2004.
Toshiba will show a prototype of its full-color polymer OLED at the show this week. The 2.85 inch display supports 260,000 colors in Q-CIF format. The current OLED technology on the market is small-molecule technology; polymer OLEDs have not been put into mass production yet, Allen said.
The only difference between polymer OLEDs and small-molecule OLEDs is the technique used to produce the display. "I wouldn't say that one is technically better than the other, but polymer is in an earlier state of development," Allen said.
Toshiba expects to start production of the polymer displays in fiscal 2002, initially targeting the mobile phone and small to midsize PDA markets, the company said. Following that, the company will target midsize and large displays, including high-end portable PCs that require higher resolution, Toshiba said.
Eastman Kodak is key patent holder for small-molecule OLED technology, Allen said.