A Little Inspiration Goes a Long Way
Welcome to our annual Industry Directory and Display Week Review issue. We've been producing this special issue for many more years than I have been involved with ID, and even before I became Executive Editor, this was the issue that always survived the longest on my desk. Frequently marked up with a highlighter and tagged with Post-it® notes scribbled with reminders, this issue inevitably becomes part of my action-planning process for the coming winter season. It's during the Winter here in New England – when the weather precludes most outdoor activities – that I find the most time to pursue my own technology interests and explore ideas that never seem to get past the whiteboard stage at any other time. Usually those ideas are born during the veritable hurricane of activity at Display Week and then get renewed when I go back and read the reviews we publish later chronicling the highlights of the exhibition. There is an obvious synergy between publishing the extensive exhibit reviews and the Industry Directory in the same issue – the latest in display technology combined with the most comprehensive index of display-technology suppliers available anywhere. Invariably, I get re-inspired as I remember the exhibits I enjoyed most (as well as realizing the ones I missed), but at a much more relaxed pace.
Over the past few years, we've been examining our DisplayWeek coverage and asking how we can improve it. The clear message was that we should add more context and analysis to the mixture and help readers understand the relative maturity of the technologies being described. Therefore, this year our crack team of reporters were specifically encouraged to provide their own perspectives on each nugget and help you put the technology into better perspective. The reviews this year accomplished this quite well, and therefore are even more interesting to read than in past years.
Covering the field of reflective- and flexible-display technologies this year is newcomer Robert Zehner from E Ink Corp., who brought his first-hand knowledge and perspective to the effort. Rob noted than "… it is only a matter of time before this growing sector of the display market will take off." Well Robert, it already has, with several new commercial products either already announced or well under way for launch during 2008. E Ink's technology certainly figures prominently in those recent announcements, but as you will see when you read his article, there is a very diverse and vibrant field of competing technologies in this space, and most of them have unique benefits that ensure their continued path to commercial adoption.
Meanwhile, the LCD community was hard at work making size matter even more than ever before. This year, however, size went beyond screen size into metrics such as thickness and carbon footprint, where larger was clearly not better. Veteran reporter Alfred Poor was assigned the task of documenting all the large-format displays being exhibited. As Alfred explains, LCD manufacturers are hearing the call for greener products and responding with advanced techniques for reducing power consumption through the use of advanced light-management films and wider adoption of LED backlights. LED backlights have the additional advantage of not containing mercury, unlike conventional CCFL backlights, making the products in which they are used much easier to recycle and more eco-friendly. Displaying large images with very small projectors was also an important endeavor this year, and the progress being made on power-stingy lightweight pico-projectors is particularly noteworthy.
Also, along the lines of improving luminous efficiency in LCDs, Dr. Adi Abileah from Planar Systems graciously agreed to write an overview on the technology of light-management films used in LCD backlights, which is very helpful in understanding the systems being exhibited and the challenges to making them more efficient. We're very pleased Adi was able to do this so we could present it to you in this same issue.
This year, we decided to give organic-light-emitting-diode (OLED) displays their own category, a decision validated by the reporting of our very experienced correspondent Craig Cruickshank of cintelliq, who opened his review by stating: "History may well judge 2008 to have been a pivotal year for the evolution of OLED technology commercialization … with key advances in materials, device architecture, optical performance, and manufacturing processes all coming to the fore this year, along with a serious attempt to prove that broad commercialization is finally close at hand." It is no wonder he feels that way; whereas Sony's 11-in. OLED TV was the main OLED story of Display Week 2007 (with its commercial release earning it the SID/Information Display Display of the Year Gold Award in 2008), Display Week 2008 featured myriad OLED developments that were the result of the tremendous efforts of OLED manufacturers to bring this technology to market as soon as possible. Perhaps most noteworthy among these was the 31-in. 1920 x 1080 OLED-display prototype from Samsung SDI. Could this be an LCD-displacing technology? Well, maybe not quite yet, but Craig certainly is convinced the future for OLED technology is bright – please pardon the pun.
We often forget that these stunning displays really are made from a large number of very specialized and critical components as well as a good sprinkling of know-how on the part of the designers. David Eccles, a well respected industry consultant and most recently past Regional VP of the Americas for SID, examines the vast array of component offerings and boils it down for us into some essential parts in his review. Dave's article immediately recognized the emphasis on improving light efficiency to reduce cost, the never-ending goal of better performance, and also the perennial mission of reducing cost as an almost perfect storm of new milestones for component improvements. From optical films, to backlight systems, to graphics controllers and to even the familiar CCFL inverters, significant improvements were easy to spot. No doubt, Dave's highlights will be getting a lot of industry attention over the upcoming year.
Before I wrap up and let you read on, I want to recognize a member of our staff who works tirelessly to make every issue of ID the best it can be. Many of you know Jay Morreale and all the work he does for ID and the Journal of SID. You may not be aware that Jay also maintains and updates the annual Industry Directory. The Directory has grown significantly in the past few years and is now featured online through the ID Web site (www.informationdisplay.org) as well as published annually in this magazine. Jay meticulously reviews every entry, contacts the companies for updates and changes to their business, and ensures that every entry is as up to date as possible. He now does this year round to keep the Web version relevant and accurate as well. You can imagine this is a tedious job, a bit like editing the Manhattan phone book, and probably not all that exciting to describe to friends at cocktail parties, but for all of us, it is a tremendously valuable end product. Thank you Jay for your hard work and great results.
Stephen P. Atwood