From time to time, I'm reminded of Shakespeare's classic line, of "What's in a name?" You know, I was talking to someone the other day about displays. It's funny, but most of my conversations revolve around displays in one form or another. The subject of plasma TVs came up. It's surprising that when people think of flat-screen displays, they automatically think that everything is plasma. They could be looking at a terrific-looking LCD HDTV, and think it's a plasma set. In some ways, it just goes to show how a 'term' like 'plasma' has entered our consciousness and vocabulary. It's like the words 'TiVo' and 'Xerox.' When a person records a program today, they "tivoed" it even if they don't own TiVo PVR. If you make a copy of something, you Xerox it.
This becoming true with plasma today. When people think of any kind of flat-screen TV, they automatically think that its plasma -- for better or worse. Some buyers have been very surprised to find out that they actually purchased an LCD HDTV, and the sales personnel from the leading big box retailers aren't telling them either. When people ask me about TVs, I try and tell that there are different technologies for displaying high-definition images. And, each technology has its pluses and minuses. Let's face it, there's no perfect display technology right now. Each display technology works well in specific viewing situations.
For a potential buyer, plasma TVs are really ideally suited for the viewer who likes to watch movies in a darkened room. Once you turn on the lights, plasmas are not as bright as they once were. And, there can still be "burn-in" issues even though there has been great technological strides in allevating the problem. I still say that if you watch news tickers on the bottom of the screen, stay away from plasma. LCD HDTVs, on the other hand, are really good for watching all types of TV programs in all lighting situations. Let's face it! You don't watch the Jets or the Giants football teams in a darkened room. Liquid crystal displays, however, can have motion-lag problems. The best LCD sets today have panel response times between 4 to 6 milliseconds. If you're watching NASCAR, for example, you could see a slight blurring of the cars if the display does not have a quick response time.
MicroDisplays have even been passed off as plasma at retail as potential buyers look for large-screen displays. With some cabinetry designs that have virtually no bezel in the cabinet, they look like flat-panel displays as you look at them "head-on." And, sales personnel fail to tell the customer that it's not a plasma TV, and the customer simply doesn't know any better. Of course, TI is trying to educate large-screen buyers in asking for DLP, and is certainly creating awareness with the potential TV buyer, who doesn't know a MicroDisplay from plasma.
In any event, flat-panel displays are the future. The CEA estimates that close to half of all the displays to be sold in 2006 will be flat -- in some way or other. The death knell has rung for CRT. The world has become flat, but not all flats are plasma.