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Kodak pictures color OLED in cameras

The company will include a color OLED display in its next digital camera, adding to the short list of products that already use the next-generation technology.

Eastman Kodak snapped a pretty picture for organic light-emitting diode displays Monday by adding a color screen based on the technology into one of its upcoming cameras.

The Rochester, N.Y.-based photography company announced at the annual Photo Marketing Association's convention in Las Vegas that it will be adding a 2.2-inch full-color active-matrix screen to its latest EasyShare LS633 digital camera. The device is the latest addition to a short list of products, including cell phones and electric shavers, using OLED screens.

The camera will be available in Europe, Asia and Australia in April. A U.S. release will be determined in the next month or two and will depend on market reaction to the product and production factors at SK Display, Kodak's joint venture with Sanyo, according to Dan d'Almeida, a vice president of sales and marketing at Kodak.

"The primary benefit of these cameras with OLED technology is the ability to share pictures more broadly...With the larger display and the Printer Dock feature consumers can bypass the PC and decide more quickly and easily if they want to print an image," d'Almeida said.

The 2.2-inch OLED display with a viewing angle of 165 degrees is up to 30 percent larger than the previous model EasyShare camera, which had a 1.8-inch liquid crystal display (LCD).

OLED is viewed as the successor to LCDs 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 dependant 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.

The OLED display in Kodak's camera is about half as thick as it would be if it included an LCD, which allowed the company to increase the size of the screen, according to d'Almeida.

Monday's product announcement is the first for an active-matrix OLED display. Other products have been using passive-matrix OLED displays.

Kodak made OLED evaluation kits available to manufacturers in May of last year.

Imaging products will be the focus in OLED technology this year, and in 2004 to 2005 more and more cell phones will use active-matrix displays, according to d'Almeida. OLED will find its way into larger-size screens in 2006 to 2007.

Kodak is licensing its active-matrix OLED technology to Sanyo and eMagin, but its passive-matrix OLED technology is licensed more broadly.