[Column] When Will Large OLED TVs Come Out?

Oct 10, 2008
Shinya Saeki, Nikkei Electronics

"CEATEC JAPAN 2008," a general exhibition of the latest IT and electronics technologies, took place from Sept 30 to Oct 4, 2008. Among TV-related exhibits, which can be described as the "face" of electronics manufacturers, exhibitors presented a variety of display technologies, including a slim TV with the thinnest part measuring less than one inch (25.4mm), 3D video devices and higher image quality based on a super resolution technology.

As for 3D video technologies, in particular, I felt that the exhibits drew more interest than ever partly because not only panel manufacturers but also audio-visual equipment manufacturers such as Panasonic Corp and Victor Company of Japan Ltd presented their innovative technologies.

While 3D video devices gained popularity, it can be said that OLED panels, which drew the most attention at last year's CEATEC, were not as prevalent this year.

Sony Corp attracted many visitors to its booth last year because it announced the world's first 11-inch OLED TV on the day before CEATEC. I remember thinking to myself, "The future of OLED TVs is bright."

Sony, of course, presented OLED TVs at this year's CEATEC as well. The company exhibited a new 0.3mm slim OLED panel and an OLED TV that only measures 0.9mm at its slimmest part.

In spite of all this, Panasonic and other manufacturers aiming to commercialize OLED TVs did not have any OELD-related exhibits. And I heard many of the display engineers I met at the show say, "I don't feel the same impact that I felt last year." I suppose such an impression stemmed from their disappointment that they could not see any progress toward larger OLED TV products this year.

When it comes to volume production of large OLED TVs, the list of challenges goes on forever, including variation among driver devices and the degradation of OLED devices. In fact, some OLED engineers I met at the show were conservative, saying, "It will take several more years before large OLED TV volume production starts" and "OLED TVs will lose their significance once an LCD TV with a thickness of less than 10mm or a contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1 is rolled out."

Under the current circumstances, where LCD TVs are about to realize a high video quality and a slimness that are equivalent to those of OLED TVs, it might be natural to become uncertain like those engineers.

Will OLED TV screens ever grow larger and replace the current LCD and PDP TVs? At this year's CEATEC, exhibitors indicated LCD TVs are not inferior to OLED TVs in slimness and image quality. I hope that I can write an article titled "The Return of OLED" at "2009 International CES," which will take place in January 2009.