Display manufacturer LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) has leapfrogged competitor Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) in the large-size OLED display market. According to Reuters
, LG has begun taking orders for 55-inch OLED TVs, which are slated to ship in February.
Displays based on organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology are thinner, lighter, and more energy efficient than LCDs. The technology has long been considered the future of display technology as OLED screens can be manufactured on flexible substrates such as plastic. This enables virtually unbreakable OLEDs to be mass-produced using a roll-to-roll (R2R) process, similar to the way newspapers are printed.
Both LG and Samsung have showcased OLED TVs in the past, but the products have yet to reach retail shelves. Samsung, the world’s No. 1 display manufacturer, is considered the leader in OLED development. LG’s move could be a blow the electronics giant, which is embroiled in a bitter court battle with one of its biggest customers, Apple Inc.
Mass adoption of OLEDs has so far been held back because of price: unlike LCDs, OLEDs don’t yet have a massive manufacturing infrastructure. Reuters reports that LG’s OLED TV will cost about $1,000.
Initially, the beneficiaries of widespread OLED adoption would be manufacturers such as LG and Samsung, but the release could mark an opportunity for new players to enter the supply chain. OLED materials are sprayed onto substrates in a manner similar to ink-jet technology, and R2R is not yet widely used in electronics. On the downside, prices and margins for LCDs would continue to drop. Manufacturers such as Sharp, Toshiba, and Hitachi have been feeling the effects of a soft LCD market and have spun off or sold portions of their display operations.
Reuters says LG will release its first OLED TVs in South Korea, followed by the US, Europe, and Asia during the first quarter of this year.