It's more than driving on the left-hand side of the road. There are very significant differences between Japanese and American consumer preferences. An LCD expert explains how this plays out in miniature flat panel display applications.
Companies had better pay close attention to the needs of each individual geographic market rather than try to produce a one size-fits-all solution.
For years, overseas display manufacturers selling to American automotive OEMs found that Americans were not interested in the navigation systems that had gained popularity in Asia. Clearly, one of the reasons was our system of addresses: in the U.S, you can find a location fairly easily. In Asia"and in Europe to some degree"finding an address often requires knowing the history of who lived there first. Nav systems are much less a luxury under these circumstances.
On the other hand, rear seat entertainment systems are as distinctively American as the minivan. In North America, consumers are accustomed to long trips in family vehicles, and entertainment for the children is a must. Automotive displays must accommodate these uses with improved viewability, resolution and response rates, but the ideal spec for an entertainment system can be considerably different than for a nav system in terms of size, response speed, or viewing angle.
Even more striking is the contrast between North American and Asian cell phone markets. Recently, cell phone competitors in Japan and Korea fought "gram wars," where even half a gram of weight savings meant a significant selling advantage. One fallout of this was the use of more costly plastic LCDs that made the same display for these phones unmarketable elsewhere.
Also, in Asia text messaging, not voice, predominates. The need to read and transmit Kanji-type characters in messaging applications drove both the development of higher-quality displays for viewing text and graphics and the need for faster data rates. Using high res graphics displays, imaging was then also possible. With imaging came the requirement for better color. But 2003 marked the first year that color seriously penetrated North America's cell phone market.
Off-shore manufacturers who respond to these varying requirements can differentiate themselves competitively. In both these industry examples, the LCD is just the tip of the iceberg. Seeing what's wanted and possible in displays will influence the development of the entire bill of materials, including ASICs and SoCs, and create greater market opportunities for these components as well.
Joel Pollack's experience in the LCD field began as a research scientist at Xerox Webster Research Center where his work on LCDs dates back 35 years. Subsequent to Xerox, he managed a Device Physics engineering group at Tektronix responsible for the development of their Liquid Crystal Color and Stereo Shutter technology. We enjoyed his visit with us in San Francisco recently.