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Apple LCD supplier considers getting into OLED-TV business

updated 06:45 pm EST, Tue January 3, 2012

Will gauge consumer interest after CES

The chairman of Chinese LCD monitor maker Amtran has told industry trade publication Digitimes that his company, one of several OEM suppliers to Apple, will consider getting into the OLED monitor and potentially television business after gauging market conditions following the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The recent introduction by LG of a 55-inch OLED HDTV has fuelled speculation that Apple may use OLED for its rumored HDTV product.

While the cost of OLED technology is coming down, it is still more expensive than the current standard-bearer, LED-backlit LCDs. Amtran supplies at least some of the 27-inch monitors seen in Apple's iMac and may also supply monitors for the Thunderbolt Display. The company focuses on 23 to 27 inch monitors, and Chairman Alpha Wu added that larger monitor sizes (such as the 32-inch) are expected to lower in price over the next year. Wu said his company plans to produce 3-4 million LCD screens in 2012, including smaller sizes such as those used by the 21.5-inch iMac model.

LG's superthin (4mm, about the thickness of a ballpoint pen) flat-panel OLED uses a refined technique to get a more natural color gamut by adding white pixels to the standard RGB mix as well as a different algorithm and manufacturing process to overcome many of the traditional limitations of OLED technology such as oversaturation, unnatural color and a narrow viewing angle. It will being shown during CES, which opens a week from today on January 10th.

An Apple supplier discussing the possibility of getting into OLED TV and monitor production has naturally added to the speculation that Apple's rumored but unannounced HDTV product may utilize advanced OLED technology, even though using current LCD technology would dramatically lower the cost. The LG 55-inch television, while currently the state of the art, is rumored to be priced at around $8,000. A thin 3D LCD TV of the same size and best quality available would cost around $2,000, and prices have been trending downwards recently.

Future Macs and other Apple products could conceivably take advantage of OLED screens if the price continues to fall. Many Android smartphones and tablets use a variation on the OLED technology presently, and pundits have speculated that future iPhones and iPads might switch to the brighter, more power-efficient and colorful technology since shortly after the original introductions of both products. Apple has filed patents for using OLED backlighting in a possible future product, but higher costs and sourcing issues (Samsumg makes the majority of OLED panels) may keep the technology out of Apple's reach in the short term.

Consumer reaction to products like LG's OLED TV will determine if the technology will spawn secondary sources that will lower costs and allow it the opportunity to gain a further foothold in the consumer electronics market. [via Digitimes, photo by Julien Ho]

By Electronista Staff
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