2015 Here We Come!

Ever so often one has the luck or the burden to be the first to voice one’s opinion.  Here at Display Daily, 2015 is my chance to give my opinion first.

  My colleague contributors and I are all thinking about display technology and how it improves the electronic representation of images for the user.  This starts with the materials and display technologies but continues with the devices and software applications that bring those images to us.

The display industry has been  a fast moving industry for many, many years, where new technologies were developed at record speeds and put in front of the consumer where their respective commercial success was decided.  Life in the years before LCD let us call it BLCD, display technologies were developed to become that thin, flat display technology that would allow the super sexy devices that would buy.  The rest is of course history.

Now we are facing the latest challenge to the LCD dynasty, the OLED display.  While still far from claiming victory over the LCD technology, many believe that this will be the display technology that will dictate the next decades.

As I see it, the display industry will shift in the coming year to adopt to the new challenges in the consumer market.  Here is my view of the next year.

Display Technologies Predictions

  • LCD will remain the strong leader overall with some sub-technology trends helping to keep OLED at bay.  Quantum dots will make their inroads into many devices, decreasing the gap in color performance between LCD and OLED displays.  At the same time, faster LCD materials allow to reach frame rates far beyond the 50Hz or 60 Hz mark to allow for better representation of fast moving objects and the insertion of  dark frames for higher contrast ratios.
  • OLED will continue to the be the prince of the display industry.  With more panel makers optimizing the manufacturing process, we can expect more suppliers entering the market for at least small to medium panels.  This will drive the prices down and make OLED overall more competitive in the future.  I still believe that OLED will only make slow inroads in the total display market this year.
  • 4K or ultra high definition displays seem to shape up to be going mainstream in 2015.  This is already more of an observation rather than a prediction at this point.  What has become the standard in the small display world is just expanding to the larger screens.  Smartphones and tablets pushed the limit of what was expected from a small device display to the limit of what the human eye can resolve.  This paradigm will ultimately dictate future resolutions.
  • SPR or sub pixel rendering is a topic that seems to be connected to the OLED technology, but this is of course not correct.  This technology can be used on basically all display types and pixel layouts, even though some work better than others.  We will find that device makers are incorporating this technology into consumer devices, however it does not seem to carry the same marketing power as 4K / UHD or even quantum dots.
  • Microdisplays of all technologies were for a long time the leader in pixel density, making resolution one of the less important topics for projection systems.  4K / UHD will force some more inventive solution that will trickle down into the more mainstream projector series.  With more UHD content availability comes more demand for lower priced projectors that can handle such resolutions.  Something that we will certainly see happening in this year.
  • Sunlight readable displays are still somewhat of a daydream for display technologists.  Many see OLED as the answer to this question, however I see current improvements more as the result of better optical coatings and overall better optical designs.  This has helped LCDs also to better performance, but is still far from a really sunlight readable display.  I have no high hopes to see anything much better in 2015.

All of the described technologies are serving markets that are constantly changing and shifting towards new use models.  One of the key trends for all consumer electronics in the last decades is the move towards more mobility.  Devices have become more mobile to allow the consumer to use them at any time and place.  This trend will continue to create new applications with massive data being transmitted to these devices.  The next big display industry relevant market that will be hit by this development in 2015 is the TV market.  Wireless access to all kinds of video sources will spring up around the globe and with that demand for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets providing such access will further increase.

At the same time, demand for large panel TV will be growing in 2015 driven more by a more friendly economic outlook and the marketing power of the 4K / UHD banner.  After years of contraction in the TV market we will see a continued increase in shipments.

All together I expect challenges for new technologies in the display industry in the coming year, but also a more positive economic environment that may even lead to new investment in the coming years.  Of course, anything can happen and if someone comes out with the display technology that makes everything else obsolete this year, at least I can write about it.

Happy New Year! – Norbert Hildebrand