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Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Sony to Invest $200 mln on OLED Display Technology

Sony said on Tuesday it will spend 22 billion yen ($203.5 million) to develop technology to make medium to large organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels.

Sony launched the world's first TV using such panels in November at a price of 200,000 yen. Just 3 mm thick, the new TV consumes 40 percent less power than a comparable LCD set and is suitable for watching fast-moving images such as sports programs because of its quick response time. It also offers bright colors and a wide viewing angle. Sony's 11-inch XEL-1 OLED TV is currently sold in Japan for about 200,000 yen (US $1850) and it is expected to retail in the U.S. this year.

OLED displays use organic, or carbon-containing, compounds that emit light when electricity is applied. Unlike liquid crystal display panels they do not need backlighting, making OLED TVs slimmer and more energy-efficient. However, they still have a product life less than existing LCD TVs.

The absence of the backlight in OLEDs makes them much lighter and extremely thin compared to LCDs, which tend to be large due to the presence of these backlights. In addition, reduced power consumption also makes OLEDs superior to LCDs, which require more power due to the backlight of the display module. Being emissive in nature, OLEDs offer significant power-saving capabilities that reduce the long-term application costs.

Samsung SDI Co is also engaged in the production of OLED displays for Tvs. The S.Korean company showcased a 31-inch OLED TV at CES 2008. Samsung has been sharing patents related to the OLED display patents with Sony since 2004, when the Korean company signed a cross-license agreement.

Samsung has also recently announced that it would double monthly output capacity of active-matrix organic light-emitting diode (AM-OLED) displays to 3 million units by 2008 from 1.5 million now. The company claims that it has the technological ability to produce 40-inch AM OLEDs, but mass production is schedulled in 2010, when the investments in the new technology will allow Samsung to offer the TVs at lower retail prices.

OLEDs are expected to face strong competition from LCDs. Although the performance benefits of OLEDs surpass LCDs, the decreasing cost of LCDs remains a key factor constraining the industry. The best strategy to overcome this will be the development of applications where OLEDs and LCDs can coexist, for example, in the backlight of an LCD panel. To establish a significant market presence, OLED manufacturers should build on energy efficiency, improve resolutions and boost OLED life cycles.

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