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LCDs tighten market grip

Posted: 17 Jul 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Spencer Chin? Society for Information Display Symposium? LCD? iSuppli? DisplaySearch?

Like it or not, LCDs look to be the dominant display technology for the foreseeable future.

The 2006 Society for Information Display Symposium held in San Francisco last month was short on drama over platformsno endless discussions over whether plasma can win the battle for supremacy in flat-panel TVs, scant debate about if and when organic LEDs will mount a serious challenge to LCD panels. Instead, LCDs ruled the day, anointed by analysts and snaring much of the product and technology development attention.

LCDs continue to benefit from huge capital investments, and technical advances in backlights and display processes are eradicating some of the technology's performance drawbacks. "We simply don't see anything on the horizon that will challenge the LCD," said Paul Semenza, VP of displays for market watcher iSuppli Corp. "The gestation period for new display technologies is measured in decades, not years, so the LCD's dominance will continue for some time."

LCDs are making strides in flat-panel TVs, said Joe Virginia, VP of Samsung's LCD business in the Americas. He cited DisplaySearch's predictions of a 28 percent CAGR for LCD TV sales, from 41.7 million to 111.4 million units, between 2006 and 2010.

Both DisplaySearch and iSuppli expect LCDs to overtake the longtime dominant TV display technology, CRTs, by 2009. DisplaySearch's projections call for LCD TV shipments to reach 96.9 million that year, compared with 90.4 million for CRT-based sets.

The key LCD suppliersSharp Corp., Samsung, LG.Philips LCD Co. Inc. and Taiwan's AU Optronics Corp.have invested huge sums in fabs that allow more efficient production of large panels. The capacity influx has lowered panel prices and thus made LCD TV pricing more palatable. According to iSuppli, ASPs for 30-inch to 34-inch LCD TVs will fall below $1,200 by the fourth quarter, although analysts like IDC Corp.'s Bob O'Donnell contend prices must sink below $1,000 to attract the average consumer.

Nevertheless, the rapidly falling prices and rising availability for LCD panels over 40 inches are putting the squeeze on plasma, traditionally the preferred flat-panel technology for larger displays.

Plasma display makers are not standing still. Suppliers are making strides to improve plasma's brightness, power consumption, contrast and grayscale characteristics, Takeshi Uenoyama, director of the Advanced Technology Research Lab and Image Devices Development Center at Matsushita, said during the SID keynote session.

According to DisplaySearch, plasma panels will soon be available with luminous efficiencies of up to 2.5lumens/W, up from 1.8lumens/W a year ago. Glass thicknesses are dropping from 2.8mm to 1.8mm, and contrast ratios are improving from 3,000:1 to as much as 5,000:1.

Plasma display shipments will rise from 10 million in 2006 to more than 21 million by 2010, according to iSuppli. Revenue, however, will only grow from $7.7 billion to $9.8 billion over the same period, as falling plasma display prices squeeze profits, iSuppli predicts.

Peter Kwon, president and CEO of South Korea-based research firm Displaybank, expects retail prices for 42inch plasma TVs to average $870 by 2010, only $95 more than the $775 average tag expected for 42-inch LCD sets.

Tech progress
Meanwhile, LCD technology continues to advance. One limitation of LCDs has been the bulky backlight, based on cold-cathode fluorescent lamps. Attempts to use LEDs in place of CCFLs have fallen short, largely because of LEDs' high cost. At SID, Global Lighting Technologies Inc. demonstrated an LED-based backlight for a 40-inch-plus LCD panel whose edge-lighting scheme reduces the required number of LEDs to 22, according to David DeAgazio, director of global sales.

LCD contrast ratios are expected to improve from 5,000:1 to 7,500:1 by 2007, said David Choi, VP of product strategy development for LG.Philips LCD. Philips Electronics is incorporating its Aptura lighting technology in 32-inch and 42- inch LCD panels to reduce motion blur and improve color rendition.

- Spencer Chin
EE Times

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