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Xerox resets bar for LCD resolution

Xerox today unveiled a new kind of active-matrix LCD that crams almost 7 million pixels on the screen and represents a first step toward U.S. companies playing a bigger role in a market dominated by Japanese firms.

Xerox today unveiled a new kind of active-matrix LCD that crams almost 7 million pixels on the screen and represents a first step toward U.S. companies playing a bigger role in a market that has been dominated by Japanese firms.

The subsidiary, called dpiX, will introduce displays that offer 3,000-by-2,000-pixel resolution on a 13.5-inch screen sometime this year. This compares to a standard PC display with 640-by-480 pixel resolution. The result is a stunning improvement in picture quality that could set a new standard for display and bridge the gulf between the resolution available on paper or film and what can be seen on computer screens.

"This is very cutting edge and far ahead of anyone out there," said David Mently, director of display industry research at Stanford Resources, who has seen sample display products from Xerox.

The technology isn't cheap, however. Initially, the displays will cost around $15,000, according to sources close to Xerox. This is why the company will at first market the products to niche markets such as aircraft instrumentation and medical imaging, in which compromises in resolution and clarity are unacceptable, Xerox officials said.

"But as volumes come up, prices will come down," said Malcolm J. Thompson, CEO of the new dpiX subsidiary. Eventually, Thompson expects the displays to surface in a variety of markets, including Xerox office products and workstations used for publishing, scientific modeling, and multimedia. He added that the screens will also get bigger, up to 20 inches.

Analysts said it might be years before the Xerox technology is economical for use with standard PCs. But if Xerox sets a new quality standard, it could shift an important part of the LCD market back toward the United States. Although American companies such as Xerox have always been active in LCD screen research and development, few have taken the additional, difficult step of manufacturing the displays.

Xerox, in particular, has a history of advancing potentially revolutionary technologies but failing to market them. But the company doesn't plan to let that happen with the dpiX screens. Xerox will manufacture the displays--based on more than a decade of Xerox research on thin-film transistors--at a plant in Palo Alto, California.