This is the opposite of a "slow news week," so here’s a sampling of items that caught my interest, in no particular order and with no claim they are the most important events of the week. To confirm that, I won’t even mention the determined efforts of Léo Apotheker and his senior executives at HP to replace the management team at Yugo as America’s favorite corporate laughing stock. But it’s no joke. There are lots of jobs (and lots of displays) at stake. Bill Hewlett and David Packard must be spinning in their graves.
On a happier note, let’s talk about OLED displays -really tiny ones. Sony Japan has released additional details about the OLED viewfinder used in three of its digital still cameras (DSCs): the NEX-7, the SLT-A77, and the SLT-A65, which were announced in late August. The same display is also used in the optional electronic viewfinder (EVF) for the company’s NEX-5N camera, according to the digital photography website dpreview.com, which also located the original Sony press release and ran it through Google Translate. The OLED EVF can be seen (with a little imagination) in the rear view of the Sony SLT-A77 (photo right).
The Sony OLED is 0.5 inches in diagonal and has XGA (1024 x 768) resolution. The color is color-by-white, with white OLED sub-pixels shining through a matrix color filter. Sony claims the display offers the highest resolution of any consumer EVF currently available, and that it has the smallest OLED pixel size in the industry - 3.3 x 9.9 micrometers. The display’s digital-to-analog converters and timing controller are built directly on the display’s backplane.
It’s no secret that several new TFT-LCD fabs are in various stages of construction in mainland China. Now, CEC-Panda has ramped panel production at its Gen 6 plant to 60,000 substrates a month with a yield of 90%, industry sources told Rebecca Kuo and Joy Wan of Digitimes this week. Production started at the plant on March 30th, with a target production of 80,000 substrates monthly by the end of this year. Full capacity, the sources say, is 90,000 substrates per month.
Total investment in the plant was US $2.1 billion, with China Electronics (CEC) contributing 70% and the city of Nanjing contributing 30%.
Interestingly, 14 engineers from Sharp are in residence at the plant because CEC-Panda intends to implement Sharp’s UV2A ultraviolet optical alignment technology at the plant, perhaps by the end of September.
CEC-Panda produces 21.5-, 32-, and 65-inch panels, with Admiral Overseas Corporation (AOC) being the main customer for the 21.5-inch panels. CEC, the sources said, wants to build another TFT-LCD fab in Nanjing’s sprawling LCD industrial park, which draws on the graduates of Southeast University in Nanjing for its professional personnel.
Finally, I had an interesting telephone conversation a few weeks ago with Andrew Hsu, Technology Strategist at Synaptics, the maker of sensors used in notebook PC touchpads, smart phones, and elsewhere. Andrew’s job is to create new interface concepts that system makers may be inspired to implement in their new products, thus providing an even wider market for Synaptics’ products. One of Andrew’s creations was the innovative Fuse smart-phone interface a couple of years ago.
This time, the topic was 3D smart phones. With the introduction of autostereoscopic smart phones from HTC and LG, Andrew was asking the question, "Are 3D smart phones more than gimmick?" His conclusion was that, although the AS-3D is rather effective from a display point of view, from a system perspective the 3D is actually a bolt-on, "mostly eye candy for an operating system that was designed for 2D." As a result, the GUI does not really exploit the 3D display’s capabilities.
What is promising is that we now have a platform on which developers can develop and create. The question is whether developers and UI architects can move forward with 3D platforms in such a way that they improve the user interface. Their success will determine how far 3D will go in portable devices.
Hsu says that touch gave users much greater access into the digital world on small screens, but the circa 2007 design aesthetic for touch screens is getting dated. That means there are opportunities, but there are also challenges. Among them is how do you control a 3D user interface. In 3D space, how does a device know if you’re randomly waving your hand or if you really want the device to do something.
There is currently lots of R&D on 3D operating systems, and lots of work is needed to see what enhancements to the existing desktop metaphor will stick and which will not. I always enjoy speaking with Andrew Hsu.
This was a very interesting week.