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Sony-Samsung rivalry to drive OLED market

Posted: 09 Jan 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:OLED? AMOLED? display market?

Sony Corp. and Samsung SDI's brewing competition will cast OLED technology as a solid contender for both mobile applications and standalone TVs, whether as tethered or wireless units.

Both active-matrix OLED (AMOLED) makers, Sony and Samsung SDI, will focus on different markets. Samsung is addressing the mobile cellphone market, while Sony is targeting future AMOLED TVs. Given the potentially large market and suitability of AMOLEDs for small TVs and handheld devices, the two giants' aspirations for pushing OLED displays are justified, according to Vinita Jakhanwal, principal analyst for small/medium displays at iSuppli Corp.

To name one a winner and the other a loser is a hard call. "We are not forecasting major shipment gains for the AMOLED TV that Sony launched [in 2007]," said Jakhanwal. Sony put the product on the market just to make a statement that it can make OLED TVs.

Market king
On the other hand, the market for Samsung's displays is more tangible: The units have already been used in five products, said Jakhanwal. Phone companies in Japan are using AMOLED displays made by Samsung SDI, and Nokia also offers a phone that uses the company's displays.

"In terms of 2008, Samsung is better positioned for market performance," said Jakhanwal. "We are forecasting the AMOLED market to be 10 million units and $225 million in value. Samsung will be the leader in this market in 2008, with more than 70 percent of market share."

To date, Samsung is the only company making AMOLEDs for mobile phones. Taiwan-based CMEL, a subsidiary of Chi Mei Optoelectronics, is the only other company mass-producing AMOLEDs, but the displays have yet to launch in a product.

The AMOLED TV market in 2008 is forecast to total 13,000 units, with revenues of $8 million.

Ho Kyoon Chung, executive VP and chief technology officer of Samsung SDI's corporate R&D center, presented the company's OLED panel road map during his keynote at the FPD International 2007 Forum in October: "In the mobile display industry, the shift from monochrome to color displays formed the first wave. The realization of high- resolution TFT panels made the second wave, and AMOLED panels will be the third wave. The OLED panel market will grow to $3.7 billion in 2010."

Barry Young, senior VP of research firm DisplaySearch, said the company is "expecting that in 2008, AMOLEDs will drive the industry, as TPO [Displays Corp.] and LG.Philips [with LG Electronics] join Samsung SDI, Sony and Chi Mei in commercial production."

'Wow' factor
Sony chairman and CEO Howard Stringer, in a session with reporters in Japan last month, made some hard predictions about the company's role in getting the market to embrace OLEDs. "OLED TVs are a serious investment," he said. Stringer admitted that there will be little money made off OLEDs in the short term, but the next business cycle is about "innovation ... OLED brings back some of the Sony 'wow' factor."

Art Berman, an Insight Media consultant, concludes in his "Display Daily" newsletter that Sony's recent decision to discontinue production of its rear-projection TVs is indicative of the accelerating industry trend toward flat-panel displays. "With Sony being one of the companies pushing research into new types of TV displays, such as OLED, perhaps it's not surprising that something had to give," Berman wrote.

Sony, from the first Walkman to the current Playstation, has continually shown it has both the will and the power to succeed in "wow" electronics. But in OLEDs, the company is still struggling to catch the Samsung SDI juggernaut.

- Nicolas Mokhoff
EE Times

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