Sony, Candescent end joint development of displays

For the second time in as many years, Sony Corp. has seen a joint development project on next-generation display technology end with no commercial products in sight.

At the end of 2001, Sony Corp. and Candescent Technologies Corp., a Silicon Valley-based flat-panel display developer, ended three years of joint research on Field Emission Displays (FEDs) and decided not to renew the project.

"We have just ended the joint development and there are no plans for a consumer product," said Aki Shimazu, a spokeswoman for Sony in Tokyo. "Development within Sony is continuing."

The two companies first started working together in late 1998 and renewed their partnership once in late 2000, when work was extended until the end of 2001. At the same time, Sony took a stake of undisclosed size in Candescent and paid the company upfront licensing fees for the technology. Despite the end of the joint development, Sony is continuing to work on development of FED panels and has rights to the fruits of the project with Candescent, said Shimazu.

FED panels have electrical discharge arrays behind each pixel. These are able to activate a single pixel by focusing a beam of electrons on the pixel, in the same way a cathode ray tube (CRT) works. Because of this, an FED is capable of achieving a picture of similar brightness, viewing angle and response time as a conventional CRT although it is much thinner. Sony was developing the technology for use in flat-panel television sets and monitors.

Before it embarked on research of FED technology, Sony was one of a handful of companies developing PALC (plasma addressed liquid crystal) technology.

It obtained a license to work on PALC technology from Tektronix Inc., the original developer, and in July 1997 began a joint development project with Sharp Corp. and Philips Electronics NV, the other two major companies backing PALC, against a general industry trend towards PDP (plasma display panel) technology.

Joint development work on PALC ended in March 2000 and shortly afterwards, Sony took a 15 percent stake in Fujitsu Hitachi Plasma Display Ltd., a joint venture formed by Fujitsu Ltd. and Hitachi Ltd. to commercially produce PDP screens. Despite the end of the joint work on PALC and its adoption of PDP in commercial projects, Sony continued internal development until late 2001 when it finally threw in the towel on the project.

With the work on PALC over and FED development scaled back, Sony is continuing to develop organic electroluminescence displays (OELDs). Like many companies in the electronics industry, Sony sees OELDs, which are capable of producing bright, fast moving images with low power consumption, as an eventual successor to LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) technology in many applications.

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Martyn Williams

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