Just as it seems the war of TV technologies has been won by the ubiquitous LCD panel a new technology joins the fray, OLED. It turns out that victories are very short lived in the world of technology, LCD won’t have long to enjoy the top spot. Samsung has seen this new combatant approaching from afar, plans have been made, and deals are being done,
Samsung has seen the LCD rise from being a quirky little display to being the dominant force in display technology. Now with the market having become crowded with cheap manufacturers and razor thin margins Samsung is having to adapt.
Samsung is looking to the future, and its covered in flexible OLED’s. Recently a Samsung executive confirmed they will begin producing flexible displays for mobile phones this year. Allowing for curved displays expect some most unusual designs towards the end of the year. The recent CES convention in Las Vegas saw Samsung demonstrating a number of curved displays, a particularly eye catching sight, along with their next generation Super OLED 55 inch TV.
The rumor of Samsung resorting to spinning off their LCD division, Samsung Display Co. may be overstating the situation. Some have even suggested Samsung is contemplating selling off the loss making division. The truth is Samsung is simply reinforcing its defenses.
As a large and diverse multinational Samsung is a company of many parts, the OLED division, Samsung Mobile Displays, is still owned by, and part of, the parent company, a separate division to LCD manufacturing. It could initially seem to be common sense for the OLED and LCD division to be combined by rolling the small but profitable OLED division into the loss making LCD business. This is the simple and cheap option, and not the direction Samsung has chosen.
The rumors are correct with respect to the LCD division being spun off, specifically Samsung will spin off its LCD manufacturing division which will be bought by the OLED division, a trillion dollar transaction in-itself. In a sense making the new kid on he block the boss and also signifying Samsung’s intention, to make OLED panels the new number one, at the same-time making a bucket load of money. How-ever Samsung eventually ends up restructuring their display business the objective is the same, preparing for the new battlefield.
The Trouble With LCD
Samsung isn’t alone, Sony has already announced it will be selling its share in a number of Samsung LCD production factories. Japanese LCD manufacturers in general have had a tough year in 2011, Sharp has halved its production for the first quarter of 2012 while Panasonic’s losses for 2012 are expected to be in the billions. Samsung’s LCD division made an operating loss of 750 billion won – $666 million – last year.
Samsung has big plans for OLED in 2012, after showing prototype bendy OLED displays and transparent tablets at CES in January Samsung Mobile Displays vice present confirmed their intention to bring these products to market this year, 2012.
The first generation of large screen OLED panels will also be available by the end of the year, with a 55 inch TV already demonstrated. Branded Super OLED Samsung had masses of the 55 inch model on display at CES. With incredible colors and natural tones the TV’s created quite a stir. These panels will still attract a price premium over high-end LCD’s but they will be far more price competitive than the first OLED’s released, Sony’s $20,000 21 inch OLED for example. LG is also expected to release cheaper and longer lasting OLED panels, including large display TV’s, before the end of 2012.
The sales of LCD panels aren’t expected to decline until 2015 but it has plateaued, the market is near saturation. There is still plenty of life left in the old LCD panel though, the new generation IPS panels are producing a better looking picture than any previous LCD, it will be the technology that goes up against OLED in this first war between LCD and OLED. How the large manufacturing restructure will be an interesting dance for the next few years, how well they work through these changes will set them up for the next display battle, LCD versus OLED.