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Move Over Plasma, LCD... OLED and SED are in Town

by May 02, 2007
Sony OLED Display

Sony OLED Display

Few consumers can spot the difference between plasma and LCD picture quality. But what's coming down the proverbial pike is different indeed, enough to impress the jaded enthusiast and bowl over the casual observer or so the pundits say.

We're talking OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) here and Sony is about to release it's first shot, though a small one, at the next generation of flat screen TVs. Their magic bullet of sorts is a diminutive 11 inch, 3mm thick OLED TV that promises picture quality akin to looking through a window.

Sony plans to introduce it's new wonder by year's end and rival Toshiba is threatening a counter-attack by releasing it's own OLED by 2009, over a year later, but sporting a 21 inch screen.

What makes OLED attractive is simplicity of design, it requires no backlight, they can be made razor-thin and provide better picture quality at lower energy levels.

Sony understands the hurdles it faces bringing such radically new tech to market, Sony's own Katsumi Ihara said it best "It will take a couple of years until we make a profit with OLED, there are a lot of issues to overcome, we need to find a mass-production manufacturing process for the larger screen size. The current process requires too much money."

SED (surface-conduction-electron-emitter display) panels also don't require backlighting, provide picture quality equivalent to OLEDs and are less expensive to manufacture. Canon corporation is on the verge of introducing a 55 inch SED unit, but an ongoing legal battle against Nano-Proprietary over patents will probably delay its introduction until the issues are resolved.

According to analysts these cutting-edge tecno-wonders won't be available en masse for about another four to five years, in their opinion the technology hasn't matured yet. They site the year 2010 when this technology will start producing viable results. The biggest hurdle being mass production of larger panels, Sony will only be able to produce about 1000 units per month and that's for an 11 inch panel. There's also issue with application, SED primarily will be used for TVs while OLED can be incorporated in seperate applications such as mobile phones. Whatever the outcome you can be sure these technologies will part of the ever changing video panorama to come. If they do deliver as promised, it will be interesting to see how they fare against the old standbys Plasma and LCD.

Sony executives will readily affirm that the race for bigger LCD and PDP TVs will rage on and OLED and SED will not be a threat. Yet Mr. Ryoji Chubachi puts it eloquently, "I do not think that LCD will last until the next century, but I also don't think that LCD will disappear next year, it will remain the mainstay of televisions."

Next century? most consumers can't figure out the difference between LCD and plasma let alone worry about what's going to happen in the next century. I guess our great-grand kids will have to "worry" about hologram vs holo-deck resolutions, we on the other hand are still trying to figure what to do with 1080p, ah the new frontier.