Category: The Front Line

QD Vision Co-Founder Predicts Death of OLED-TV

On February 8, in his presentation entitled “Are Quantum Dots Closing the Window of Opportunity for OLED-TV?” at the SID Los Angeles Chapter’s One-Day Conference on Technologies for Advanced Television, held in Costa Mesa, CA, Seth Coe-Sullivan, co-founder and CTO of QD Vision, made a well-argued case that OLED-TV would become irrelevant in five years. At that time, conventional LCD-TVs with white-LED backlights will still be going strong, and LCD-TVs with quantum-dot-enhanced backlights using blue LEDs will have become be a major force.

Coe-Sullivan based his argument on the ability of quantum-dot-enhanced LCDs to provide better color gamut than OLEDs and to reduce power consumption, all at a minimal increase in cost. He systematically countered all but one of the arguments made in OLED’s favor.

Argument 1: OLED has response spead 1000 times that of LCD.
Coe-Sullivan’s counter-argument: The combinatin of faster-switchng LC materials, new LC modes, and thinner cell gaps give LCDs speeds up o 240Hz. The factors limiting speed is jitter and other optical effects, not LC response. “OLEDs offer no benefit in response speed over LCDs.”

Seth Coe-Sullivan, co-founder and CTO of QD Vision, created a stir by predicting the demise of OLED-TV.  (Photo:  Ken Werner)

Seth Coe-Sullivan, co-founder and CTO of QD Vision, created a stir by predicting the demise of OLED-TV. (Photo: Ken Werner)

Argument 2: OLED has twice the viewing angle of LCD.
Counter-argument: The combination of new LC modes, thinner LC cell gaps, and new optical control films gives LCD-TVs viewing angles that are “good enough.” OLEDs offer little practical viewing angle benefit over LCDs.

Argument 3: OLEDs will have a thickness 1/25 that of LCDs.
Counter-argument: The LED-BLU edge-lit designs that became established in 2008/2009 result in OLEDs offering only a minimal thinness benefit over LCD TVs.

Argument 4: OLEDs will offer a 10x power efficiency increase.
Counter-argument: The combination of LED BLUs, light-control films, and that fact that OLEDs have not delivered the promised power savings, has resulted in OLED-TVs consuming more power than LCDs when displaying a white screen, and the situation is worse for higher resolutions and larger screens. In short, it is LCDs that have a significant power efficiency advantage over OLEDs — not the other way around.

Argument 5: OLEDs will offer a bill of materials (BoM) cost one half that of LCDs.
Counter-argument: The combination of reductions in the cost of LED BLUs, incremental improvements in LCDs,
and the persistance of low volumes in OLED manufacturing have resulted in OLED’s BoM being no less or greater than that of LCDs. And that is before the significantly lower yield of OLEDs compared to LCDs is taken into account.

Argument 6: New OLED manufacturing processes will further reduce costs.
Counter-argument: Fine metal masks waste material and generate dust. The anticipated new low-cost processes — such as ink-jet printing, laser transfer, nozzle jet, and OVJP — are harder than we thought, and roll-to-roll isn’t amenable to high-resolution displays. In short, “OLED manufacturing is a yield and cost negative compared to mature LCD fabs.”

Argument 7: New OLED display modes will further increase the attractiveness and utility of displays.
Counter-argument: Since this argument was first put forth, LCD technology has demonstrated transparent and curved displays. If these new display modes ever get past the gimmick phase, they are equally possible with

Argument 8: OLED color gamut can be 50% greater than LCD.
Counter-argument: Quantum-dot enhancement of LED backlights can produce a better color gamut than OLED-TVs.

The only argument for OLED-TVs that Coe-Sullivan acknowledged is their much greater contrast (in a dark room).

One of OLED’s problems is cost, which has kept market penetration low. Although not widely recognized by the general public, quantum dots appeared in major products in 2013: three models of Sony television (in the U.S.), which use QD Vision’s Color IQ rail, and, one of Amazon’s new Kindle Fire HDX models, which uses 3M’s quantum dot enhancement film (QDEF). Coe-Sullivan, 3M’s Erik Jostes, and Touch Display Research’s Jennifer Colegrove all predicted a rapid growth in design wins for quantum dots in 2014, with increasingly rapid growth coming in 2015 and following years.

That doesn’t mean that any of the other speakers at the conference — including 3M’s Jostes — echoed Coe-Sullivan’s position that OLED was fated for early extinction. The consensus is for a slow but steady increase in OLED-TV penetration. Market Intelligence company IHS has predicted a 3.9% penetration in panels for OLED-TV in 2018.

Ken Werner is the founder and principal of Nutmeg Consultants, and was the program chair and moderator for the one-day conference.  You can reach him at

“Antenna” Digital TV: When All Else Fails…

Got free digital TV?

As I write this, it’s Saturday afternoon, and four days since a big ice storm hammered southeastern Pennsylvania, leaving hundreds of thousands of homes in the dark – no electricity, no cable, no Internet – and a real mess for PECO (our electric utility) to clean up.

We awoke last Tuesday morning to see a coating of ice over several inches of snow that fell two days before. Roads were largely impassable, snapped tree limbs were laying everywhere, and the sound of generators created a racket not unlike the crickets of late summer.

Our power went out for 18 hours, starting at noon Tuesday. (Some nearby tree finally gave up the good fight and toppled into the adjacent 34 kV power lines.) Fortunately, I had pre-wired selected circuits in the house with a transfer switch after Hurricane Sandy, and quickly fired up my 6,500 watt Honda generator. It ran out of a second tank of gas just as the power came back on Wednesday morning.

Mother Nature can be deadly and beautiful at the same time.

But that’s not the real story. Our cable and Internet service come from Comcast, and it was dead as a doornail when we arose Wednesday morning. Verizon’s mobile phone service wasn’t much better; it could pass calls and texts, but data wouldn’t move, nor could I load any Web pages.

As many readers know, I’m a big proponent of terrestrial digital TV. So my home system has three different TV antennas – one on a rotator atop the roof, one below it that is aimed permanently at Philadelphia, and one in my attic, also aimed at Phily. It’s a nice complement to our cable service, especially if I want to watch TV stations from New York City (about 65 miles away).

Thanks to those rigs, we were able to get uninterrupted TV service and catch up on the latest weather, traffic conditions, and power outage updates. All I had to do was switch over to the RF inputs on each TV, and I was in business. And apparently, I was the only one of my neighbors in this subdivision able to do so. (And I could keep using my TiVo HD DVR, as it also has a terrestrial DTV tuner.)

So – here we are on a beautiful but chilly Saturday morning with no Internet, no cable, and no VoIP telephone service. I can’t get any emails or data through my mobile phone. But I can watch as much TV as I want, on as many channels as I want (about 55 minor channels here in the metro Philly market).

Why is this important? The FCC has been planning a spectrum auction for some time to free up more UHF TV channels for mobile phone and Internet service. This auction, the rules of which are still being developed and vetted, will rely on broadcasters “willingly” giving up channels in exchange for cash, presumably to be paid by the likes of Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint.

But there are some flies in the ointment. So far, there hasn’t been much of a positive response to the idea from broadcasters, the majority of whom seem content to hang onto their licenses – licenses that they paid plenty of cash to get in the first place, in case you didn’t know.

The CTIA (aka The Wireless Association) and other broadband advocacy groups like to talk about how broadcasters got their spectrum “for free.” Hogwash. They had to pay millions of dollars for licenses, construction permits, and related costs to light up transmitters and keep them on the air 24/7.  A recent analysis by analyst Jeffery Eisenach of Navigant Economics illustrated in detail that broadcasters had to pay their way – and plenty – to use the airwaves, just like anyone else.

In the meantime, Verizon and AT&T are sitting on chunks of unused spectrum that they’ve had for several years. Numerous studies over the past three years have illustrated that there is no “wireless broadband crisis,” as former FCC chairman Julius Genachowski insisted. (There have been plenty of new ideas for more efficient ways to use exiting wireless spectrum, though.) And locally, we’ve found out several times in the past two years that cellular networks are notoriously unreliable when there is a natural disaster, as they are easily overwhelmed with traffic.

Meanwhile, the terrestrial “one serving many” digital TV broadcast model continues to chug along reliably, providing timely news and weather updates and helping us feel like we’re not cut off from the rest of the world. Yes, I do miss my Internet connection, and shudder to think about how many emails I’ll have to plow through when it comes back.

But I don’t miss the telemarketing calls. And I’ve gained a new appreciation for just how dogged (and perhaps crazy) local reporters are from Philly TV stations KYW, WCAU, WPVI, and WTXF as they drive through dark neighborhoods, sliding on ice and dodging downed power lines to keep us updated on the progress of PECO crews. And what’s happening on the local roads . And which sections of which towns are still dark. And what to expect from the next storm system heading our way. (No, not more snow!)

When all else fails…

Samsung was King of the CES Hill

Let’s not talk about director Michael Bay’s meltdown at Samsung’s huge CES press event. Okay, let’s, but just for a moment. Bay, a featured guest (presumably because his explosion-filled action films look really good on Samsung large-screen TVs) came down with a severe case of stage fright when the teleprompter stopped showing him the words he was supposed to say. Bay attempted to soldier on, but couldn’t, and left the stage saying, “I’m sorry. I can’t do this.” If you must, you can access the video that appeared on You Tube within minutes of the event. By now, there may be more than one because the room was filled with cameras. This was, after all, a press event.

But the real point of this story is what happened next. Joe Stinziano, Executve VP of Samsung Electronics America, who was hosting the segment that included Bay, gracefully fielded the hot grounder hit to his corner. With complete professionalism, he quickly got the event back on track and continued delivering Samsung’s TV-related message. And that message was, “UHD will drive the next change in the television industry.”

The camera-wielding press corps at Samsung's CES press event.  (Photo:  Ken Werner)

The camera-wielding press corps at Samsung’s CES press event. (Photo: Ken Werner)

Unlike Bay, Mark Cuban performed as intended during his celebrity walk-on by amplifying the message: “UHD is incredible. It will help turn the TV into a unique multimedia platform.”

Joe Stinziano, man of the hour at Samsung's press event. (Photo: Ken Werner)

Joe Stinziano, man of the hour at Samsung’s press event. (Photo: Ken Werner)

The Bay espisode may have been embarrassing for Bay, but not really for Samsung. They hunkered down and got the job done, which is what they almost always do. They lead the world in TV sales, LCD panel sales, and smart phone sales. They popularized the phablet, a category that the allegedly creative Apple completely missed, and they kept their noses to the grindstone when small and medium OLED displays were an embarrassing failure and then made them a huge success.

Stinziano said Samsung is leader in UHD-TV, and that the company expects to sell 60 million UHD sets in 2017. “UHD,” he said, “will drive TV growth for Samsung.” Samsung’s UHD sets for 2014 will have screen sizes ranging from 50 to 110 inches, will feature a technology call PurColor that extends color gamut and purity (but was not described in more detail than that), and will embody UHD upscaling that provides near-native-4K image quality. The sets will accommodate Samsung’s “Evolution Kit,” which will allow UHD sets to receive electronic and firmware upgrades without replacing the set.

Although high-quality upscaling really is good enough to provide enjoyable UHD viewing without native 4K media, Samsung isn’t stopping there. Some native-4K movies will be pre-loaded in their UHD sets, and a 4K streaming service is being developed with Amazon. The sets also contain a faster quad-core processor.

Since Samsung does not have a dedicated game platform, as does another leading consumer electronics company whose name also begins with S, Samsung is including the intelligence so the TV set can serve as a sophisticated game platform.

At the Technicolor Press Breakfast two days later, Samsung and M-Go announced it is an M-Go core embedded in the Samsung chip that will deliver 4K native and up-scaled content. The Samsung sets will presumably earn Technicolor certification. At the press breakfast, M-Go and Technicolor provided a side-by-side demonstration of up-converted vs. native-4K video. Experienced viewers were largely unable to tell the difference between the two at distances much less than typical living-room viewing distances. John Batter of M-Go noted that native-4K programming requires a bandwidth of 15Mb/sec, while upscaled programming optimized for streaming requires as little as 3Mb/sec. Streaming service providers will have some interesting choices to make as time goes on.

At the press event, Samsung described its new 105-inch as “the world’s largest curved UHD TV” and also showed “the world’s first curved UHD TV.” Of course, LG Display also showed “The World’s First 105 inch Ultra HD Curved TV,” which had an aspect ratio of 21:9. For now, let’s agree that both of these Korean competitors make very impressive large curved UHD displays.

Samsung's curved 105-inch display at CES. (Photo: Ken Werner)

Samsung’s curved 105-inch display at CES. (Photo: Ken Werner)

The claim made by both Samsung and LG that 55- and 65-inch TVs with screens having a radius of curvature in the vicinity of 15 feet provide “a more immersive experience” for viewers is not supported either by geometry or personal experience. However, when the screen has a 105-inch diagonal and a 21:9 aspect ratio, the claim for curvature offering a more immersive viewing experience has more credibility. Samsung also increased the “immersiveness” of moderately sized curved displays by tiling a bunch of them side to side. The result was impressive, and this approach should have significant appeal for digital signage.


Tiling moderately sized, curved displays side by side can provide an impressive experience for digital signage. (Photo: Ken Werner)

Both at the press event and in its large booth on the show floor, Samsung showed a moderately sized OLED display that could be bent from flat to gently curved by small motors whirring away inside the case. Since I’m not convinced that moderately sized curved displays make any sense, I’m even less convinced that it makes sense to bend such a display from flat to curved and back again. But the gadget drew lots of attention, and that was probably its main function. Besides, we all need an extra button on our remote controls.

Samsung's bendable TV with the corner pushed out into the screen's curved configuration. (Photo: Ken Werner)

Samsung’s bendable TV with the corner pushed out into the screen’s curved configuration. (Photo: Ken Werner)

Market share produces industry influence, along with resources for R&D, product design, marketing, elaborate exhibits at CES, and huge press events. Samsung has that, and has made the most of it with steady, professional management; talented engineering; good product management; and the patience to allow long-term projects to come to fruition. And they can also indulge in the whimsy of whirring motors bending OLED displays. Samsung is truly king of the TV hill, which doesn’t mean that aggressive competitors aren’t trying their best to scramble up it.

Ken Werner is Principal of Nutmeg Consultants, specializing in the display industry, manufacturing, technology, and applications. You can reach him at

Consumer Television: It’s Business As Usual (Or Maybe Not)

The official numbers haven’t been released yet, but a report in The Korea Herald, dated January 22 says that the final data will show Samsung dominated the global television business in 2013.

According to the story, Samsung was estimated to have sold 49 million units of flat-panel TVs last year. DisplaySearch had the totals at 32 million from January through September (the final DisplaySearch numbers for 2013 haven’t been compiled yet) and Yoon Boo-keun, Samsung’s consumer electronics division chief, stated at CES earlier this month that the company sold around 15 million TVs in Q4.

That’s an impressive number by anyone’s standards and reflects the complete dominance Samsung has in the television business. Think back 20 years to when Samsung was an afterthought; perceived as a 3rd-tier “bargain” brand for electronics.

Now, they’re on top of the heap, and have been so for eight consecutive years. In the meantime, LG looks to maintain its grip on 2nd place, with a varying market share number in the low to mid-teens throughout 2013. Between the two companies, they control over 40% of the worldwide television business.

The Japanese, on the other hand, will no doubt be disappointed by the final numbers for ’13. In the third quarter; Sony, Panasonic, and Sharp were hovering around 8%, 6%, and 5% market share respectively – and those numbers are expected to drop when the final tally comes in.

As I noted in my last DD, Panasonic seems to be charting a course away from televisions, based on what they didn’t show at CES (a full line-up of 2014 models) and their emphasis on commercial sales of everything from cameras and storage devices to digital signs and batteries. And of course, Panasonic pulled the plug on plasma panel and TV manufacturing at the end of December.

The other remaining player in televisions – Toshiba – took a similar approach to their CES booth, choosing to show a wide variety of 4K (Ultra HD) display applications for home and office and skipping the TV line-up. Toshiba has already shut down two manufacturing plants and laid off over 3,000 employees because of continued losses in television and computer manufacturing.

That leaves Sony and Sharp. The former continues to stay the course in sales and marketing of consumer TVs, but I’d be surprised if they don’t turn in yet another year of red ink – the ninth in a row. Sharp, meanwhile, has chosen to emphasize their super-sized lineup of TVs, plus clever engineering tricks like the Quattron+ line and their ability to manufacture IGZO TFTs with decent yields.

The problem for both companies is their uninterrupted slide in television market share that has been going on for eight years. With a 5% share worldwide and 3% in the United States as of Q3 2013, Sharp can’t afford to stay in this game for much longer. Neither can Sony, if they are serious about returning a profit to shareholders.

It doesn’t help matters that television sales are expected to have declined worldwide by 2.2% from 2012 when the accountants are done. The double-digit boom in TV sales in China kept that number from being a lot worse.

Amid the flurry of post-CES news stories about curved, super-sized UHDTVs was another item that went almost unnoticed, except for the sharp eyes of analyst Paul Gagnon of NPD DisplaySearch. In his blog post of January 17, Gagnon revealed how three retailers in the United Kingdom are already discounting LG’s “first to market” 55-inch curved OLED TV (55EA980W) by £3,000 ($4,910).

This product, which launched on these shores in July of 2013 for nearly $15,000, saw its price drop in the U.S by nearly $6,000 one month later when Samsung rolled out their own curved 55-inch model for about $9,000. And now – just seven months later – the LG model is selling in the U.K. for £4,999 ($8,178), almost one-half of its original sticker price. (Perhaps they overestimated demand?)

And the cannibalizing of TV prices continues unabated. On the last day of CES, Vizio announced its prices for a line of full-array LED 4K (UHDTV) “smart” LCD models – and they aren’t much higher than conventional LED “smart” TVs from LG and Samsung.

Case in point: The 50-inch P502ui-B1 will retail for $1,000, while the 55-inch version will have a sticker price of $1,400. The P602ui-B3 is set at $1,800, and the 65-inch model will command $2,199. Finally, a 70-inch skew (P702ui-B3) will be offered at $2,600. Consider that Samsung and Sony are trying to peddle 55-inch 4K LCD smart TVs for about $2,900 right now and you can clearly see the train wreck coming.

Summing up: Samsung dominates the consumer television world – business as usual. Panasonic and Toshiba de-emphasize TVs at CES – maybe not. Sony and Sharp keep pouring money into consumer television manufacturing and marketing, even though they are incurring substantial losses – business as usual. LG and Vizio slashing prices on OLEDs and 4K TVs – definitely not!

EDITOR’S NOTE: The original version of this article mistakenly quoted the discount applied to the LG 55EA980W as the actual selling price. The article has been updated on January 29 to reflect the correct selling price and discount of this TV.

Quantum Dot Makers Defy Conventional Wisdom

It has become conventional wisdom that the two major quantum-dot display-enhancement approaches — the flattened glass cylinder of QD Vision and the polymer sheet of Nanosys/3M — have there own natural market segments, and this conventional wisdom has been supported by statements from the two camps.

QD Vision’s “Color IQ” glass element, which is incorporated in Sony’s Triluminos color-enhancement system, grows linearly with screen diagonal. 3M’s Quantum Dot Enhancement Film, which can be substituted for the diffuser film in an LCD backlight, grows with the square of the screen diagonal. It seems logical that at a certain point the cost of QDEF for larger screens would significantly exceed that of the Color IQ element, so the natural market segment for Color IQ would be large screens and the natural segment for QDEF would be small and medium screens.

And that’s how things started out. QD Vision’s first major design win was in high-end Sony Bravia TV sets, and QDEF’s was in the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7.0 and 8.9 inch tablets, in which the QDEF increases the color gamut from 60% to 72% NTSC and enables a significant improvement in battery life.

But at CES HiSense introduced a UHD-TV quantum-dot “Wide Gamut TV,” which uses QDEF film rather than Color IQ. These sets, with a maximum size of 85 inches, will enter the Chinese market in March and the U.S. market this summer.

Vaio Pro Ultrabooks TriluminosThen, if you looked closely in the Sony booth, you could see VAIO Pro Ultrabooks and Flip PCs with Triluminos displays So much for conventional wisdom. Sony wasn’t making much fuss about the Triluminos displays in its high-end notebooks at CES, but the opposite is true on the Sony Store website. The Triluminos displays appear to be available on the 11.6- and 13.3-inch VAIO Pro Ultrabooks and on the 13.3-, 14-, and 15.5-inch Flip PCs. All of these displays are Full HD.  By the way, in addition to having a FHD Triluminos display, the Sony VAIO Flip sports a very clever slide-and-flip mechanism for converting between PC, tablet, stand, and easel configurations.

So, what has happened to change the conventional wisdom? Nanosys tells me that if all things were equal, the conventional wisdom might apply, but that QD Vision has to use a greater density of QDs than 3M does, so the cost difference in large screens is less than was originally anticipated. I do not yet have an answer for the opposite question: Why is it economical to use the Color IQ element for smaller screens? I hope that QD Vision’s Seth Coe-Sullivan will be answer that question at the SID Los Angeles Chapter’s One Day Symposium on Advanced Television Technologies being held February 7 at the Costa Mesa Country Club ( 3M’s Eric Joste will also be speaking. Gentlemen, now you know some of the questions we will be directing your way in Costa Mesa.

Ken Werner is Principal of Nutmeg Consultants, specializing in the display industry, manufacturing, technology, and applications. You can reach him at