Greener (and bigger) is better for mobile displays

SAN DIEGO, CA--An integral theme in the photonics industry today is the overwhelming emphasis on “green” technologies.

Oct 1st, 2008

SAN DIEGO, CA--An integral theme in the photonics industry today is the overwhelming emphasis on “green” technologies. It was no different for the third annual meeting of the Society for Information Display’s (SID; Campbell, CA) Mobile Displays conference (www.sidhottopics.org), held September 23–24 in San Diego, CA, which opened with a keynote from Mary Lou Jepsen, founder and CEO of Pixel Qi--a spinout of the One Laptop Per Child (laptop.org) project. Jepsen, who also spoke at SID’s Display Week 2008 (www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/330416), again showed how developing an energy efficient, low-cost display makes laptops possible for underprivileged children; laptops that are proven to boost education and could even be a way to end world hunger. Jepsen estimates that if all displays shifted to the OLPC XO architecture (turning things off when they’re not in use), laptop energy consumption could be reduced 100X.

In 2006, the inaugural meeting of the Society for Information Display’s (SID; Campbell, CA) Mobile Displays conference (www.sidhottopics.org) was focused on end-user price decreases despite increased customer demand (see www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/276871); In 2007, the Mobile Displays conference debated the issue of convergence versus divergence of media services delivered over mobile devices (see www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/309264). With 200 attendees in 2006 and a decrease to 140 attendees in 2008, it was fitting that this year’s Mobile Displays conference should focus on “green” technology, especially in light of the fact that increasing oil prices have no doubt had an impact on our struggling economy, now in the throes of debating a $700 billion dollar bailout of our financial institutions. I began thinking that the reduced conference attendance might be attributed to these larger economic issues “trickling down” to the technology sector and travel budgets. The heavy focus on energy efficient organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technologies on the first day of the conference was an indication that today, more than ever before, energy efficiency will remain at the forefront of all conference venues.

After Jepsen’s keynote, Vinita Jakhanwal, principal analyst of mobile displays for iSuppli Corporation (El Segundo, CA) gave an overview of market size, forecasts, and trends in the mobile (small and medium) display market. The four billion small and medium displays sold in 2007 were of course dominated by mobile handsets (cell phones). A slight slowdown is anticipated since last year’s forecast, says Jakhanwal, but healthy 10% year-on-year growth is still anticipated for a forecasted $16 billion market in 2008. Pixel formats continue to move to QVGA or better, and the display still represents 10–20% of the full bill of material for mobile handsets. Power consumption of the display is imperative, she says, noting that prices are still falling for small displays, but holding steadier for medium-size displays. The medium-size display market (< 10 inch portable displays for mini computers, for example) is projected to have compound annual growth of 26%, outpacing the small display market growth for handsets.

What is holding back 3-D?

Switching gears, editor analyst Steve Sechrist at Insight Media (Norwalk, CT) punched a hole in the inflated three-dimensional (3-D) display market, citing customer research that shows while > 50% of respondents were interested in 3-D photos/movies, 25% were indifferent, and 29% didn’t want 3-D at all. In fact, a company called DoCoMo came out with a 3-D cell phone in 2004–2005 at a $50 premium over standard phones and it flopped. Nonetheless, 2.8 million of these phones were sold and it is likely that 3-D will march forward even if it does become more of a “niche” offering. Sechrist says that Korea is leading the effort to “monetize” 3-D by perhaps adding 3-D overlays to existing 2-D displays that could, for example, advertise a product as it spins or floats over the display.

OLEDs: green and flexible

In the three sessions on OLED technology from DuPont Displays (Wilmington, DE), Universal Display Corporation (UDC; Ewing, NJ), and Toshiba America (Irvine, CA), the message was energy efficiency, potential for lower-than-LCD cost, and thinness for rugged flexibility (one video showed a flexible OLED display being hit by a hammer, with the presenter challenging the LCD crowd to do the same). DuPont presented its solution-printed OLED roadmap, UDC touted the advantages of its 100% internal quantum efficiency phosphorescent OLED (PHOLED) technology--adding that AMOLEDs should be 2.5 times more efficient than AMLCDs in the near future, and Toshiba America discussed its addition of a micro-bump feature in the lower layers of an OLED that creates a new, higher-extraction-efficiency device than standard OLED processing.

Maureen Mellon, senior director of product marketing at PlasticLogic (Mountain View, CA) described the future of flexible electronics as essentially, a replacement for printed material--what could be greener? As long as these devices are energy efficient, they promise to revolutionize the media industry. The estimated $25 billion dollar organic electronics market in 2015 is expected to grow to $250 billion by 2025. PlasticLogic is betting on its simplified pixel structure in a flexible substrate, the incorporation of E Ink (Cambridge, MA) technology, and its massive Dresden factory to give them a one- to two-year lead over the competition in mass-producing flexible readers.

The remainder of the sessions were concerned with optical and electronic touch technologies, backlights, mobile display drivers, and the ever-popular concept of projection technology for mobile devices. EpiCrystals (Tampere, Finland) closed the conference with a presentation on its not-yet released double-cavity integrated bottom-emitting laser (DECIBEL) with minimal speckle and designed for mobile projection devices; every year, the SID Mobile Displays conference continues to find something new for attendees.

--Gail Overton

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