Sony brightens prospects of OLED

The consumer-electronics giant will invest in and start mass production of organic light-emitting diode displays next year, planning the screens for use in its own mobile devices.

Richard Shim Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Richard Shim
writes about gadgets big and small.
Richard Shim
2 min read
Sony is increasing its commitment to organic light-emitting diode display technology by further investing in a joint venture to produce OLED screens and use them in mobile devices.

Tokyo-based Sony announced Thursday that it will invest another $76.6 million (9 billion yen) in a joint venture with Toyota Industries as a way of speeding the production OLED displays. Sony said mass production of OLED panels will begin in the spring of next year. The joint venture, called ST-LCD, currently produces liquid-crystal display screens. The initial OLED panels, which will be about 2 inches diagonal, will be used in mobile devices from Sony.

OLED is viewed as the successor to liquid crystal displays in screen technology. OLED displays don't require a backlight because the materials used in the display light up when an electrical charge is applied. The light-emitting characteristic means that devices don't need as much power to run and can be thinner than LCDs, which are dependent on a backlight. Screens are the most power-consuming and expensive component in most computing devices.

The market for OLED displays is projected to grow from $112 million worldwide in 2002 to $3.1 billion by 2007, according to a report from research group DisplaySearch.

As a major manufacturer of mobile devices, Sony's efforts to use OLED screens will help to grow the market for the technology. The company expects video applications for portable products, such as digital cameras and mobile phones, to increase, and the ability of OLED screens to consume less power than LCD screens while still providing bright images makes the technology an attractive option.

Sony has been aggressive in backing OLED technology. In early February 2001, the company was demonstrating a large size OLED panel, but now the company is looking at smaller sizes as well.

"This move for Sony is natural and welcome," said Kimberly Allen, an analyst with research firm iSuppli/Stanford Resources. "Large sizes are good, but there are already uses for smaller panels.

OLED technology is being used in screens for digital cameras, cell phones and electric shavers.