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Samsung looking to expand in mobile handset LCD market

Posted: 12 Nov 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:samsung electronics? tft-lcd? sharp electronics?

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd, projecting $9 billion revenue from its LCD business in 2004, is setting its sight on becoming the number one supplier of LCD screens for mobile handsets in 2005, seeking to take market share from rivals such as Sharp Electronics.

"The next phase of our growth will come from TV and mobile industries," said Christopher Hoggarth, director of the TFT-LCD division of Samsung Semiconductor Europe GmbH.

Looking to build a much more balanced portfolio for its LCD business, Samsung is expecting its own LCD revenue generated from the mobile handset segment to increase 14 percent this year from 9 percent last year.

The Korean giant, traditionally more driven to take over the larger LCD screen market, is now freeing up capacity for smaller size LCDs, according to Werner Diesing, Marketing VP for memory and TFT, Samsung Semiconductor Europe GmbH. Further, Samsung has done "R&D homework" to catch up with its formidable competitors such as Sharp, he added.

Indeed, Samsung's commitment to expand its LCD business in the mobile handset has begun in earnest since last year. According to Bernd Dedner, senior manager of TFT-Marketing at Samsung Semiconductor Europe GmbH, Samsung last year modified its older lines "Line 1 and Line 2" to be dedicated for mobile handset LCDs. The company is adding its Line 3 to that mix this year, he added.

But more importantly, the mobile phone market, where handset vendors have traditionally demanded fully customized LCD screens to differentiate their phones, is beginning to ask for more standardized display products, observed Hoggarth. "The screen resolution is moving towards QVGA or QCIF plus, while the standard LCD interface is emerging through MIPI." More standardized screen requirement plays better to Samsung's strength, he explained.

As for Samsung's technology improvements for the mobile segment, Samsung is showcasing at Electronica here: 1.66-inch "outdoor visible screen" for handsets; 2.6-inch VGA screen for handsets with300 Pixel Per Inch (PPI); and 2.32-inch touch panel screen for handsets. The touch panel "may change the form factor for mobile phones forever, by removing keyboards from a handset," said Hoggarth. Samsung has also developed its own transreflective technology for mobile screens, called Transmission with Micro Reflective (TMR).

Despite Samsung's high hopes for mobile handset LCD business, the LCD industry is facing a lot of "ifs" for its industry-wide market projection, in terms of currently downsized market expectations for LCD-TVs and the timing for ramping up for the Generation 6 and Generation 7 production lines world wide.

In particular for LCD-TV market, Samsung acknowledged a heavy price decline of "about 25 percent" per LCD screen in the third quarter of this year. Attributing it to the exaggerated LCD-TV demand earlier this year, Samsung's Diesing remained optimistic. He observed that the price dropwhich he believes was "the phenomenon over this past summer"is bottoming out now. Inventories at customers, channels and manufacturers "appear to be eaten up right now," he claimed. "We are beginning to see additional demand for LCDs over the next few months."

The industry held a big hope for LCD-TV sales in 2004, originally predicting it to be sales of 10 to 12 million units. Samsung is expecting the global industry figure to get settled at 8 to 8.5 million units this year, according to Dedner.

According to Samsung's own LCD revenue projection for 2004, 48 percent of the company's LCD sales is expected to come from desktop monitors, with 26 percent from notebook and 12 percent from LCD-TV, in addition to 14 percent in mobile handsets. The more diversified market segments "means less panic," said Hoggarth.

- Junko Yoshida

EE Times

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