Sony to mass produce OLEDs for small screens from 2005

Sony will start mass production of full-colour Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) displays and is considering using the technology across a wide range of the company's portable devices with screen sizes up to 10 inches (25cm) from next year.

The first device to use OLED technology will be the high-end Clie PEG-VZ90 personal digital assistant (PDA), which will go on sale for $US867 on September 25, according to company spokesman, Takashi Uehara.

The OLED technology provided a brighter, thinner and more responsive screen for the VZ90 compared to the company's prior high-end model, the TH550, that was released in February this year, Uehara said.

The 3.8-inch screen is the same size as that of the TH550 and also has the same number of colors at 262,144 compared to Sony's standard 3.8-inch Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) screen, but OLED has nearly three times the brightness. Unlike LCDs, OLED displays do not require backlights.

The VZ90's OLED measures 2.14mm in thickness compared to 3.49mm for Sony's standard LCD with a backlight.

OLEDs also offer faster response time and better contrast. Response time for OLEDs is 0.01 milliseconds compared to 16 milliseconds for Sony's LCD, contrast ratio is 1000:1 compared to 100:1, and the OLED has 180-degree vertical and horizontal viewing angles, while a Sony LCD screen of the same size has a 130-degree vertical and 125-degree horizontal viewing angle.

The PEG-VZ90 will only be on sale in Japan, following Sony's decision in June this year to stop selling Clies in the US. However, Sony intended to use OLED technology in a wide range of products for screen sizes up to about 10 inches, Uehara said.

OLED has long been seen as a potential replacement technology for LCDs for small screens and several major Japanese companies, including Seiko Epson and Sanyo Electric have expressed interest in the technology.

Currently, Sanyo only supplies one type of panel, a 2.4-inch version that is used on some Kodak cameras, according to Sanyo spokesman, Hayato Hirata.

Last October Sanyo showed some prototype mobile phones with OLED screens at Japan's annual Ceatec exhibition. But while the company eas considering using the technology on mobile phones, digital still cameras and PDAs, it was holding off on committing to the technology because of technical issues related to screen quality, Hirata said.

Seiko Epson plans to develop OLED technology for televisions and other entertainment applications by 2007 and this May showed a prototype 40-inch OLED display, which was the largest OLED yet shown by any manufacturer. But the company also said it has development and technical hurdles to clear before it adopted the technology widely.

In Sony's case, while the company has yet to make an official announcement, OLEDs could start replacing LCD screens in digital still cameras, digital video cameras and even small thin clients from 2005, said Uehara.

Sony wouldl not be producing the displays at its ST Liquid Display joint venture with Toyota as some reports had indicated, but at Sony's Microsystems Network Corporation, Uehara said.

Initial production of the screens would be 1000 units a month, he said.

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Paul Kallender

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