Industry News September/October 2013 Issue

LG and Samsung Bring Large, Curved OLED TVs to Market

For those not inclined to head to the beach last summer, there was another option: stay inside and watch big, beautiful OLED TVs.  In July, LG made its 55-in. curved OLED TV, first demonstrated at CES last January, available to the public.  A few weeks later, Samsung introduced its own 55-in. curved unit.

The stay-at-home option would have required deep pockets: at least as of last summer, LG’s TV was retailing for $15,000 and Samsung’s for $9,000.  Still, the commercial availability of these long-awaited TVs represents a breakthrough.  The sets are now available through Best Buy in the U.S.  Information Display contacted a Best Buy representative to find out what customer reaction has been thus far, but Best Buy had no comment.  According to the Best Buy Web site, the LG unit must be ordered in stores and is only on display in about 20 stores nationwide.  There are no customer reviews posted yet.  (Note: At press time, the LG unit went on sale on Amazon for $9,999 and the price was lowered to the same amount on Best Buy.)

Consumer Reports recently reviewed the Samsung unit and was uncharacteristically gushing about it, saying the test TV performed “brilliantly” and that the technology was a potential game changer.  (Consumer Reports had not yet had the chance to review the LG unit.)  Issues such as burn-in and lifetime still have to be tested and addressed, CR cautiously added.1

Many industry experts are scratching their heads as to why both Samsung and LG chose to introduce OLED TV commercially in curved rather than flat formats.  The official word from the companies is that the curvature offers a more enhanced and immersive viewing experience.  Time will tell whether the curve catches on with consumers.

In the meantime, the OLED TVs keep coming and keep getting bigger.  At press time, LG had just unveiled a 77-in. UHD curved OLED TV at IFA 2013 in Berlin.  The unit was a prototype.2


1 oled0813.htm



Microsoft Buys Nokia’s Handset Business

In early September, Microsoft announced that it was buying Nokia’s smartphone and cellular handset business for $7.2 billion, with $5 billion going toward Nokia’s Devices & Services unit and the other $2.2 billion to license Nokia’s patents and mapping services.  The Finnish firm Nokia is the maker of the Lumia line of smartphones, which run Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system.

Finland’s flagship company began as a paper mill approximately 150 years ago and went on to enjoy success in many areas, including rubber, cable, and telecommunications.  But Nokia has struggled with mobile-phone sales recently, even as its Lumia smartphone (winner of a 2013 SID Display Application of the Year Silver Award) was well received by both critics and consumers.

The acquisition appears to be designed to provide Microsoft with hardware traction in the mobile-devices market.  Stephen Elop, a former Microsoft employee who became Nokia President and CEO and will now act as Nokia Executive Vice President of Devices & Services before returning, post-transition, to Microsoft as an executive VP,1 spoke about the deal in a Microsoft press release.  “Building on our successful partnership, we can now bring together the best of Microsoft’s software engineering with the best of Nokia’s product engineering, award-winning design, and global sales, marketing, and manufacturing….  With this combination of talented people, we have the opportunity to accelerate the current momentum and cutting-edge innovation of both our smart devices and mobile-phone products.”

Going forward, according to a Nokia press release, the agreement stipulates that “Nokia continues to develop and sees significant value in, advanced technologies, its patent portfolio, and Nokia brand,” and that the company will be “focusing on NSN, HERE, and Advanced Technologies post-transaction.”  The last three are divisions within Nokia.




IFA 2013 Highlights

At press time, IFA 2013 was taking place in Berlin.  In addition to the aforementioned 77-in. OLED TV from LG, the following display-related products were announced:

•  A 56-in. 4K OLED TV from Sony.

•  The HP Envy Recline, a tablet/laptop hybrid with a 23- or 27-in. touch screen on a stand that can pivot down off the desk and over your lap.

•  4K UHD LCD TVs from Panasonic.

•  98- and 110-in. UHD LCD TVs from Samsung, plus an UHD OLED TV.

•  Samsung’s “Galaxy Gear” smart watch.


Projected Touch

By now, most of us have been in the situation of wishing there was a touch interface that isn’t there – on an iPod Classic, for example, or an ATM window that requires you to press the mechanical buttons to the side of the screen rather than the images on the screen.  We seem to want it to be a touch-based world, and a new product from Seattle-based Ubi Interactive is designed to help us get there.

With a Kinect sensor, a computer running Windows 8, a projector, and the Ubi interactive software, you can have a touch screen on any surface.  The user can interact with the display using simple gestures as if the projected image were a touch screen (Fig. 1).

The Ubi software analyzes the images captured by the sensor to detect the position of the user’s hands or fingers in the 3-D space in front of the display.  It can precisely determine when the user is in contact with the display and pass this on as a touch event to any touch-ready Windows 8 application.  The software starts at $149 for one touch point and ranges up to $1499 for 20 touch points.


Fig. 1:
Ubi’s interactive software, when used with a Kinect sensor, a computer running Windows 8, and a projector, allows any surface to become a touch screen, as demonstrated at a recent architecture show at California Polytechnic State University. Photo courtesy Ubi Interactive..



Shanghai AVIC and NLT Form New Company

If you’ve been wondering when the folks involved in Renesas/NEC/NLT/Tianma would change company names again, wonder no longer:  Shanghai AVIC Optoelectronics Co., Ltd., and NLT Technologies, Ltd., have announced the official launch (currently scheduled for November 1, 2013) of a new joint venture, Tianma NLT America, Inc.  The new company has been created to provide AMLCD solutions specifically for the Americas industrial market.  It will have responsibility for sales, marketing, and engineering support of the NLT/Tianma product line as well as management responsibility of the distribution channel for Tianma AMLCD products in the Americas.  (These are the responsibilities currently managed by Renesas Electronics America’s Display Business Unit.) •