One of the most important product introductions in recent years was
made by Sony, with an Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) display.
The new 11" Sony TV is called the "XEL-1". The Sony HDTV is
extremely thin (less than 1/10") and light-weight.
Other companies, Samsung, Toshiba, Matsushita (Panasonic), and
others are investing hundreds of millions of dollars, trying to develop
this promising technology. Toshiba plans to sell a 30" OLED display in 2009.
Kodak holds a several patents in OLED technology. Manufacturers will
probably be required to pay a licensing fee to Kodak for every OLED
There is a lot of money to be made. According to DisplaySearch, in 2007, the market for LCD TVs was estimated at $27.4 billion, while the market for plasma TVs was estimated at $7.5 billion. An OLED TV that was cost competitive would likely get a significant share of this market. According to iSuppli, the current market for OLED devices is a little more than a half-billion dollars per year. Samsung currently has a 70% market share. But cost and technology problems have prevented OLED from being used in larger equipment such as HDTVs or computer monitors.
Most consumers say they want a wall mountable HDTV. However, according to the NPD Group, a consumer and retail market research information firm (NPD.com), only 13 percent of current LCD TV owners and 25 percent of plasma TV owners say their set is mounted on the wall.
"Consumers are drawn to flat-panel technologies for their wall-mounting capabilities, but the difficulty of such an installation often leads them to explore alternatives such as stands or retailer installations." said Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis, The NPD Group. But with OLED, the job of mounting the hardware would be much easier, more like hanging a painting on the wall. The hardware weighs a fraction of LCD or plasma.
OLED displays have already used for some time in digital cameras, cell phones and other devices with relatively small panels, because they are very energy efficient, which is very important in portable devices.
A significant benefit of OLED displays over traditional liquid crystal displays (LCDs) is that OLEDs do not require a backlight to function. Because of this, they draw much less power. And because there is no backlight, an OLED display is much thinner than an LCD display.
And because there is no backlight, an OLED system has a larger viewing angle than an LED system, and an OLED display can be much thinner than an LCD display.
The response time for OLED is faster than normal LCD screens. An average of 8 to 12 milliseconds in response time is normal for a LCD compared to 0.01 milliseconds in response time for an OLED. This means that OLED will be less subject to "blur". Blur occurs when there is rapid motion in the programming, such as sports. When the picture changes quickly, the pixels can lag in response.
One of the problems that has limited OLED use was that the blue OLED technology had a short lifetime, but a new type of blue LED, the "PHOLED", has a 20,000-hour lifetime (20-25 years of normal TV use). This was a major breakthrough in the effort to commercialize this technology for the HDTV market.
In theory, OLED displays can be more efficiently manufactured than LCD or plasma displays, meaning that they should not be as expensive. The Sony XEL-1 sells for $2500, but you should remember that the first large LCD and Plasma displays were much more expensive when they were first introduced. If production costs can be cut, the OLED HDTV set should eventually be less expensive that comparable LCD sets.
OLED Performance Pluses:
Ø Power Efficienct
Ø Very Thin and Light-Weight, 1/4" or less
Ø Better Brightness than LCD
Ø Wide Viewing Angle (~ 160 degree viewing angle)
Ø Excellent Contrast (> 1,000,000:1)
Ø Once developed the Manufacturing Process should be Inexpensive (the process is similar to ink-jet printing)
Ø Very Large Displays are Possible (> 100 inch)
Ø Response is better than LCD(good for moving images like Sports)
If the OLED does not live up to its promise, it will not be the first HDTV display to do so. Remember the surface-conduction electron-emitter display (SED TV)? Toshiba and Canon were ready to go into production, but patent disputes with a company called Nano-Proprietary killed the technology. That probably won't happen this time. The main obstacle will be the manufacturing process. If units can be manufactured cost-competitively with LCD and Plasma, it should get very interesting.