Well, this is an exciting time for Digital TV, and, of course, our new Digital TV DesignLine. Where do we begin? Everyone said that CRT was dead, but it continues to [flourish in both direct-view and rear projection permeations as manufacturers strive to find the lowest price points with entry-level models. Some manufacturers like Toshiba are even stripping out all tuning on rear projection CRT sets to reach lower prices selling them as monitors only, which keeps them clear of the F.C.C. tuner mandate. Other manufacturers like RCA and Samsung are looking at slim-depth direct-view products, which don't take up a lot of space on a stand or shelf.
Beyond CRT, TV manufacturers are going down two technological paths: MicroDisplay and Flat Panel. Clearly, there are continuing technologies with different predications from each manufacturer. Some brands like Sony believe that plasma TVs are dead, and are departing the business.
Other brands like Panasonic, Hitachi and LG think that plasma displays reflect superior technology. Who's right? We don't know. Everyone has a different prediction to make. In recent discussions with several manufacturers, it was told to me that MicroDisplays is only an interim technology. It doesn't matter what technology we are talking about: 3LCD, DLP, LCoS (including SXRD & HD-ILA). It is believed that they will be gone by 2008 or 2009. Can it be? Personally, I find it hard to believe. Right now, we are making the transition from 720p displays to 1080p displays. All 720p models are now considered entry-level MicroDisplay, and 1080p product will be high-end in 2005. Now, just as an aside, there are no 1080p inputs on these 1080p displays as they all upconvert incoming video signals to 1080p. Presumably, it won't be till 2006 that there could be source video products out there that will actually send out a 1080p signals. Although, it should be noted that next-generation blue laser DVD players will initially only pass 1080i signals. Hmm. Some people claim that HDMI will pass 1080p signals, and others do not. Some people say that 1394 is the only connector that will pass 1080p. Hmm. Only tests in the lab will say for sure on these next-generation products.
Flat panel displays are the most exciting area of Digital TV for designers these days because everyone wants one. However, we all know that all flat-panel displays are not created equal, and that there are a lot of contributing factors combined that makes a display produce an exceptional image. We start with pixel resolution, brightness levels, backlighting, response times, and so on. Today, flat-panels are comprised of plasma TVs and LCD TVs. Everyone seems to agree that LCD TVs are ideal for screen sizes up to 42-in. wide, and everything above should be plasma. Prices continue to fall for both plasma and LCD, but LCD prices are still much higher in the larger screen sizes. While sales for LCD TVs are expected to continue to rise over the next several years, the future for plasma is somewhat clouded. Unfortunately, plasma still suffers from problems that have plagued the technology since inception " namely burn-in.
On the horizon, we have new flat-panel technologies that might usurp current flat-panel technologies. These technologies are SED, FED (Sony), and OLED (Pioneer & Philips). While the last two are still somewhat in their infancy, SED (jointly developed by Canon and Toshiba) holds the promise of offering the consumer a 4-in deep flat-panel CRT. This technology was privately shown at CES2005 to select journalists by its developers from Japan, and it was quite impressive! S.E.D. stands for Surface-Conduction Electron-emitter Display. Essentially, S.E.D. is the marriage of the best of CRT (tube) technology with the best attributes of flat panel displays. It was absolutely phenomenal! S.E.D. has a native resolution of 1080p, and has a reported contrast ratio of 8600:1 along with a response time of 1 ms (milliseconds) or less. The set is self-illuminating for low power consumption, and is about 4-in. deep. Initially, it will be offered in 50-in.+ screen sizes at a premium price (think current high-end large-screen LCD prices) starting 1st quarter 2006. S.E.D. produces unprecedented image clarity, and extremely precise image detail. The blacks were perfect equaling or bettering the best CRT displays that I've seen in over 20 years. Every editor in attendance was truly impressed. Everyone felt that it was the best display that we have seen (including SXRD) to date. According to Toshiba, they hope to show full-blown 1080p samples at C.E.D.I.A. in Indianapolis in September 2005. We can only hope.
So, stay tuned to Digital TV DesignLine. It's an exciting time!