How can an outsider possibly crack into the television industry, which is dominated by incumbents with a lead built on billions of dollars and years of investment?
For Silicon Valley start-up Prysm, the route to TVs is technology that promises dramatic energy savings, uses no toxic materials, and offers competitive image quality.
By the end of the second quarter, the company plans to introduce its first laser phosphor TV, part of a line of displays that use up to 75 percent less energy than existing flat-panel displays, according to company executives.
The company is initially targeting commercial customers who can use the displays in retail or public spaces such as sports arenas where many tiles can be used to make one giant screen. Later the company expects to target the residential market, executives said. The image quality will be as good as existing flat-screen TVs and be competitive on price, said Dana Corey, vice president of sales and marketing.
The five-year old San Jose-Calif.-based company, which first disclosed its work in January, plans to soon announce its funding. It now has about 100 employees in the U.S., India, and elsewhere in Asia.
Conceptually, laser phosphor display technology is more like old-fashioned cathode-ray tubes, where electrons are beamed at a phosphor-coated glass to create an image. Prysm's TV uses laser beams, modulated by mirrors, to shine light onto phosphor materials on glass. When excited by the light, the phosphors glow to create an image.
One of the enabling technologies to make the laser phosphor displays economical is high-density optical storage components, which emerged in the 1990s and are now used in hard disks and Blu-ray DVD players, said Julian Carey, the director of product marketing.
One feature of the technology is that the display does not heat up like a liquid crystal display or plasma TV. Particularly in a commercial setting with many screens, cool displays can significantly reduce the cooling load for a building, said Corey.
Another environmentally friendly feature is that the manufacture of the TVs does not use mercury or other harmful materials as existing flat-screen TVs do, he added.
The company plans to manufacture thousands of units this year and has customers, Corey said. The improved power consumption is attractive, particularly to commercial buyers, but sales will only happen if the company can match the rest of the industry of price and image quality.
"Pricing is going to be right in line with competition," he said. "In this climate, you need to meet (image) needs and use the advantage of less power consumption."