Answers and Questions
In our creative, technology-based industry, we go through periods of trying to figure out the answers to reasonably well-defined questions, and we go through other periods of trying to figure out what the next set of questions should be. (Of course, it is really more complicated than that, since these two activities are generally going on simultaneously.) Let us look at one of the well-defined questions and the answers being developed for it, and at one of the questions now being formulated.
One very-well-defined question is, "How do we create LCD TVs that present rapidly moving images with the same quality as CRT TVs?" If you spend some time – and it doesn't take much – listening to papers on the subject delivered at conferences such as last December's IDW held in Niigata or next month's SID International Symposium to be held in Boston, you will find that the answer is becoming well formulated, too. It takes a combination of a reasonably fast LC-cell structure, response-time compensation (overdrive), and "black data insertion" or "backlight blinking." The first two parts of the answer appear in virtually all current large-screen LCD TVs (and are being steadily improved), while the last part appears in some current models, notably some of Hitachi's WOOO TV sets. An important part of the solution was the realization that traditional measures of pixel response time did not directly address the issue of motion-picture blurring. A new measure, motion-picture response time (MPRT), is being standardized, and commercial test sets are already on the market. (One is from Otsuka Electronics, www.photal.co.jp.)
Formulating a New Question
There is a surprising amount of work being done on technological alternatives to LCDs and PDPs. Full-color passive-matrix ink-jetted polymer OLEDs may already be in production as you read this; and full-color active-matrix ink-jetted polymer OLEDs are likely to enter production late this year or early in 2006. Samsung has promised an OLED main display for 2005. (In a clamshell-type cellular telephone, the main display is the relatively large display you see when you open the phone. The secondary display is the small display on the outside of the phone. OLED secondary displays using area color are already commonplace.)
There is a resurgence of interest in exploring various approaches to field-emission displays (FEDs), and Canon and Toshiba have promised that production of surface-conduction electron-emitter displays (SEDs) – a variation on the FED theme – will begin in 2005. And the intensifying interest in e-paper displays is producing technical papers and prototypes relating to technologies such as polymer-stabilized LCDs (Kent Displays), weakly anchored LCDs (Nemoptic), electrophoretic displays (E-Ink Corp. and SiPix), interferometric displays (Iridigm), and nano-electrochromic displays (NTERA).
Of course, every company that is developing a novel display technology includes in its business plan a statement of the world's pent-up demand for what it is offering. But a question that is being formulated in different ways by different companies is whether the world really needs display technologies beyond PDP and LCD and, if so, in what niches is there likely to be an attractive competitive advantage for them? (Some LCD makers even ask if PDPs have a future in the coming era of Gen-7-and-higher LCD fabs, but we won't go there.)
In the end, it is likely that the market – or, at least, investors who are willing to belly up to the bar – will provide the answers to this set of questions. But tentative answers are coming in. Cellular-telephone chip giant Qualcomm has bought Iridigm. Nemoptic BiNem®displays are being manufactured by Taiwan display maker PicVue for an e-book application, and the E-Ink/Philips active-matrix electrophoretic display is being sold in Sony Librié e-books in Japan.
Here are three more questions.
• Why are developers of active-matrix OLEDs so interested in amorphous silicon for their thin-film transistors, even though amorphous silicon's characteristics are unstable when used to drive OLEDs?
• What 3-D technologies are being applied to electronic displays, and why?
• Why do TV displays based on different technologies look different, and what should you do about it?
The answers to these last three questions will be found in the articles contained in this issue. We hope you enjoy them.