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Day 5 - IFA International

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Market & Technology News

Market & Technology News LCDs stay ahead According to Bob Raikes, Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) is once again the dominant display technology for TVs and other consumer products at this year’s IFA. We asked him to explain why. According to Bob Raikes, Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) is once again the dominant display technology for TVs and other consumer products at this year’s IFA. We asked him to explain why. The overwhelming reason why LCD remains the most widespread display technology is its flexibility over a wide range of applications. LCD also has a ‘killer app’ for notebook computers. The technology is the only flat, lightcoloured display solution that can be made at the right price and, critically, with the right power consumption for mobile computers. This malleability has made LCD applicable for a whole range of mobile applications. Having such advantages over its rivals has enabled LCD makers to increase manufacturing volumes and reduce costs enough to attack the PC monitor market. Adding the huge notebook market provided another lucrative area, enabling LCD makers to blow Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) out of the water and take over TV as well. Demand for higher volumes of products and bigger screens has further enhanced LCD sales. Meanwhile, the roll out of small LCD screens for mobile and smartphone devices has pushed sales above the billion mark. Myriad consumer electronic products have now signed up to LCD, including digital still cameras, camcorders, portable media players, Global Positioning Systems and digital photo frames. The LCD was able to meet the needs of all these diverse products. So what about rival technologies? If you look back fifteen years, Plasma Display Panel (PDP) was seen as the main competitor. But as the dots on the screen got smaller, PDP became less efficient. The technology was never going to be competitive among batterydriven portable applications. At one time, few thought that TFT LCDs would ever be made in volume above 20” and that PDP would dominate the larger sizes. However, LCD has since been made over 254 cm in diagonal. The success of LCD in larger sizes has pushed PDP upmarket resulting in the smallest sets being 93,9 cm, while the real competitive advantage over LCD begins at 116 cm or 127 cm. This means that PDP is really confined to a smaller pool of TV applications. Early problems with screen burning meant that PDP could not dominate the digital signage market, forcing it to share the space with LCD which has subsequently taken an increasingly large market share. PDPs have great image quality, are cheaper to make than LCDs and support 3D really well, which means the technology will not disappear. Another early competitor was FED – based on a kind of ‘flat CRT’ concept – which was invented in France and backed by US competitors to the Asian LCD industry including Motorola and Candescent. The largest VCfunded project ever at the time, FED simply could not get good enough. Canon was the last major player and officially pulled out of commercialisation just a week ago. Sony spun off its FED interests a few years ago to be developed for professional broadcast monitoring, but that has also since been closed. There were several backprojection TV and monitor technologies developed, most based on TI’s DLP chip, which is also used in projectors. But none could match the performance or slimness of LCD TVs. Mitsubishi, among others, continues with laser TVs in the US. But few think the market can grow and the technology is only used in very large TVs. So what about OLED? OLED is still challenging LCD but it is manufactured in large sizes. A recent presentation at the SID conference by Samsung, the OLED leader, showed a concept with five transistors per pixel in its design – compared to one for LCD. The backplanes are much harder to make – especially above 38 cm” – and the only people that have anything near the right technology are the major LCD panel makers. OLEDs have great image quality and are excellent at 3D and can be extremely slim. However, for the next few years their impact on TV will be limited purely because few companies will be able to make them. In the shortterm, the huge investments needed will mean prices will not be cheap. Chinese companies are now entering the LCD market – currently dominated by Korean and Taiwanese makers – with just Japan’s Sharp in the top grouping. In the second quarter of 2010, there were about 300,000 OLED TV sets shipped around the world compared to more than 40 million LCD sets, according to DisplaySearch. Meanwhile, LCDs, with their LED backlights and overall Bob Raikes Meko's Principal improved performance, just keep getting better and better. “Flexibility, adaptability and low powerconsumption are all key factors in the continued success of LCDs.” IFA International • Tuesday, 7 th September 2010 11

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