Evolving the LCD Marketplace
Sang Soo Kim
Do you remember the movie "Jurassic Park"? In the climactic scene of Steven Spielberg's classic film, a huge Tyrannosaurus rexattacks a slew of raptors that have been hunting the park's visitors. After emerging the winner in its battle with the raptors, the T. Rex roars out in victory, while a park banner saying, "When dinosaurs ruled the earth," falls to the ground – cinematically underscoring the larger message that even the dominant will fall to the wayside if they are not prepared to evolve.
The scene reminds me of cathode-ray-tube (CRT) displays, which were the absolute dominant force in the display industry until the 1990s. At first, it seemed that they also would dominate the TV and monitor markets at the onset of the video era. However, the opposite occurred. CRTs are gradually disappearing – only a little more than a decade after the advent of liquid-crystal displays (LCDs).
The LCD is the T. Rex in today's display industry, accounting for 85% of the total display-market revenues (DisplaySearch, 2007), a tremendous expansion from the mid-1990s when they were primarily applied to notebook computers. In 2000, LCDs enjoyed a great deal of growth in the desktop-monitor segment. Today, the upward spiral is fueled not only by growth in PC usage and the use of small-screen LCDs for consumer-electronics devices, but also by the phenomenal ascent of the large flat-panel-TV market, in which LCD technology is now the leader.
But we must not become complacent. The IT market is maturing and the TV market is expected to approach saturation around 2010. Moreover, there is some concern that the LCD market could stagnate if we do not find a new growth engine and if LCD technology does not evolve more rapidly.
The LCD industry has heeded these warnings. We have learned from the demise of the CRT and have continued to seek out new industry growth engines that can work hand-in-hand with the development of new technologies.
I am happy to report that the industry is moving in the right direction. As more LCD production lines come on line and the size of glass substrates continues to expand, the "extra-large" display field, in particular, is expected to create new markets for LCD applications.
I see four major growth areas approaching:
• The next growth segment of the large-display market is digital signage. Until now, the use of digital signage, or digital information displays (DIDs), was seen as most promising in public areas such as airports, stock exchanges, hospitals, banks, and exhibition halls. Recently, however, that view has shifted somewhat to where digital outdoor commercial boards at bus stops and outer building posters are seen as having even larger growth potential. Yet, to truly add to the success of LCDs in the TV market, digital signage must overcome the limitations of current DID technology, including fully resolving the challenges of outdoor visibility, long-term reliability, and multi-screen design. The industry has been making significant strides to meet these challenges, but there is more to do.
• Beyond digital signage, another bright spot for LCD-market expansion is that of e-boards for use in offices. E-boards can replace the white boards and beam projectors currently in use with 100-in. or larger displays. To jumpstart the e-board market, the industry must secure technology for multi-touch screens and develop an image sensor that can be built into these displays, to allow users to write on the displays in a way that is easy to read. We think this market holds great promise as a virtual "cash cow" if we can provide e-boards with an interactive communications function that allows meetings and conferences to be more widely shared in real time.
• A third growth engine for extra-large displays is likely to be intelligent TV. As mentioned earlier, the TV market is expected to approach saturation around 2010, but a major push for intelligent TVs will refresh the market and usher in a new LCD growth period beyond 2010. As envisioned, intelligent TV displays with large screens, high resolution, and highly stylized designs have tremendous potential to serve as the center of information flow into the home. In order for the large-TV market to experience strong continual growth, we need to have next-generation intelligent TVs with extra-large screens and ultra-crisp definition, by which I mean an extremely clear integration of 8 million pixels – this would quadruple the resolution of today's full-high-definition screens.
• The fourth market opportunity for LCD technology is what we refer to as the "art wall" display. In commercializing the concept of art walls, we will be encouraging the use of LCD-TV sets to display paintings or pictures when the sets are not being used to watch TV shows or movies. For this vision to become reality, we will need to significantly lower display power-consumption levels, while at the same time assuring that the picture presented is one of super-fine quality.
Our technology is advancing at a rate faster than at any other time in the history of displays. The progress of the most recent 5-year period may be equivalent to that of the 10 years preceding it, but it also may be equal to the pace of innovation for just a single year in the future.
There are number of theories about why the dinosaurs disappeared, yet one thing is for sure: They were ill-prepared for an enormous amount of change to their world, which simply occurred faster than they could evolve. The LCD industry is working hard to evolve faster than the market. We are committed to advancing LCD technology and LCD products from a world of predictable maturing to one of unlimited potential.
Mr. Spielberg had it right in conveying that the greatness of a past era cannot be resurrected without the structure to not only meet demand, but to allow evolution in even more wondrous ways. We must look beyond the near-term limits of the conventional and work together to ensure the potential for an astounding future for all of us. •