A Top 10 List

by Aris Silzars

This year's SID International Symposium held in San Francisco (June 5–9) was an exciting place to be. The display industry is in the midst of a rapid scale-up of manufacturing capacity. Bigger – and then even bigger yet – seems to be the driving impetus for the construction of new factories, for the sizes of the glass sheets used to make the new flat-panel displays, and for the screen sizes of the computer monitors and televisions that are being manufactured and delivered to enthusiastic consumers.

Competition for market position among the giants of the industry is becoming incredibly intense. Just about everyone, it seems, is able to manufacture products of acceptable quality. That being the case, all that is left is to drive costs and prices ever lower. And since consumers have already demonstrated a willingness to pay a substantial premium for these "exciting new digital flat-panel displays," we are seeing the brewing of a "perfect storm" – a convergence of consumer excitement combined with an increasing capacity to supply products that are ever-closer to mainstream affordability. It is a scenario for almost unlimited growth, potentially encompassing most of the next decade.

This year, I had the pleasure of once again organizing and chairing the SID Business Conference. Thus, for two days I had the opportunity to listen as high-level display-industry executives presented their views on how the display industry will evolve and how their companies expect to participate in – and perhaps even dominate – this evolution. As I listened, I began to wonder if it would be possible to formulate a few fundamental guiding principles that could help us to understand and predict what lies ahead. In addition to the current drive for bigger panels at lower prices, should we consider the possible influence of new technologies or other as yet unknown surprises? Will something come along that will change our display world in ways that we cannot yet imagine? For example, is realistic 3-D technology the next great opportunity for new display products?

As I listened, the following list began to emerge. And while I did not plan for it, I ended up with a list of ten items. Does this make it look like I am trying to be a poor imitation of David Letterman on the Late Show? Perhaps there is a tiny similarity in that it was my intent to provide a challenge and a stimulant to my Business Conference audience. And as a stimulant, this list does not necessarily provide adequate explanations. It simply states the ten conclusions. So, here is my list.

  • The mainstream display technologies that we will have 10 years from now are known to us today.
  • The best and perhaps only leading indicator of what we will see in 10 years and beyond is the current status of new materials. Once we understand the basic physics and chemistry of materials, the rest is history.
  • Technology is not the only key to commercial success. There are other influences of equal importance – economic, political, societal, and ecological. The basic question to answer is will customers find a new product sufficiently exciting to buy it?
  • New technologies can reset traditional price points.
  • There are nearly unlimited opportunities in displays beyond computer monitors, television, and cell phones. The next 10 years will bring more exploration of this broader display space.
  • Over the next decade, the worldwide display business will overtake the semiconductor business.
  • For indoor viewing conditions, most displays today are "good enough" – good enough in resolution and good enough in brightness. For outdoor viewing in sunlight, that is not the case.
  • Truly realistic 3-D, such as needed to create a believable virtual-reality experience, is at least 25 years away for single viewers and perhaps 50 years away for multiple viewers – and that is at the unlimited cost level.
  • Toys and games will provide a wonderful playground for exploring new display technologies.
  • There will be more light at work, at play, at home, and everywhere in between. We are living in exciting times for the worldwide display industry.

Well, what do you think? Do you agree, disagree? Do you have enough information to decide? Would a more complete explanation be helpful? I would enjoy hearing your reactions – whether you agree or have some contrary thoughts about the future of our display industry – or perhaps regarding how we can all become successful participants. You can reach me by e-mail at silzars@attglobal.net, by telephone at 425/898-9117, or by fax at 425-898-1727.

And since I will be responsible for inviting authors for this column over the coming months, I would be especially interested in hearing from you if you would like to submit something that could embellish this space on a topic that relates to the business side of the dynamic worldwide display industry.