Tag: displaysearch

Windows 8 to drive touchscreen boom

Touchscreen sales are set to boom as notebook manufacturers get to grips with Windows 8 touch optimisation. 

The growth in smartphones and tablets has typically been regarded as the main driver for touchscreen revenues. However, with the introduction of Windows 8, and combined with the forthcoming release of Intel Ultrabooks with hybrid tablet features, the range of devices featuring touch is expected to widen.

According to DisplaySearch, the market for touchscreen module revenues is set to hit $16 billion this year, before doubling to $31.9 billion in 2018. This is largely driven by smartphone, tablet and handheld console sales, such as the PS Vita. Such devices are said to account for $13.6 billion in revenues this year.

However with the imminent release of Windows 8, larger PCs are also set to make an impact on touchscreen revenues.  Microsoft has been showing off the touch features of Windows Office recently and touch capabilities are strongly suited to the Metro interface.

Along with a push from Ultrabook vendors to kit a new range of devices out with touchscreens, this is expected to see touch on notebooks jump fourfold from two percent in 2012 to eight percent next year.

This would be good news for Intel, which has so far been struggling to meet the expectations it set itself for the ultrathin devices. The company seems confident touch will increase demand for the devices.

Intel has been taking no chances and has been investing in its touchscreen supply chain, signing deals with the likes of Wintek and HannTouch to ensure that it is ready to meet demand.

In addition to notebooks, the growth in all in one PCs, which already often feature touch, is likely to help boost module revenues.  Automotive applications are also set to rise.

Sony and Panasonic team up for OLED production

Sony and Panasonic have turned up the heat on Samsung with the announcement that they will partner to develop OLED TVs.

The two Japanese firms announced that they will team up to develop the organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels, with a view to finding a way to churn them out for mass production.

OLED screens are seen as a way to revive the TV market which is choking itself to death with low LCD set prices – meaning that major players are operating at a loss.

Sony and Panasonic will now work towards mass production of panels and modules for TVs and large-sized displays by 2013, according to a statement released by Sony.

Both firms have been toiling to work out a cost effective process to building large size screens, with others such as Samsung and LG also scratching their heads on how to make a profit from the nascent technology.

Sony has already managed to knock out some 11 inch TV screens but these are a long way off the size customers have become used to.  By teaming up with Panasonic it hopes to make use of its ‘all printing method’ of production to churn out cheaper OLED panel at larger sizes.

As DisplaySearch analyst Paul Gray pointed out to TechEye, the problem isn’t as simple as making screens bigger by scaling up. The real trouble is in finding a suitable technology that will work at large sizes, and without costing the earth.

Current OLED screens work well at small sizes, but would be prohibitively expensive at, say 55 inches.

55 inches is the size Samsung has claimed to be readying for its own OLED screens, having ‘unveiled’ products at various events such as CES.

But, with little in the way of real details about the product’s release – “price TBA, start date TBA, start country TBA, everything else TBA,” Gray points out – we are still far from having large sized screens actually on sale – despite the ongoing marketing hoo-hah.

“This is just like a bunch of boxers talking in the weigh in,” Gray said, speaking with TechEye.  “There is so much PR puff around this, but there is little of substance to back it up.”

What is crucial for all concerned is that the move into OLED, which is largely a case of maneuvering for pole position at the moment, does not descend into the cut-me-own-throat price drops that has hurt the LCD business.

“Starting a new product category where you lose money from day one is not a long term business proposition – we have seen that before, everyone has tried that and it didn’t work,” Gray said.

He pointed out that such a situation has to be avoided in the OLED market, at all costs.

“Having Sony and Panasonic enter the OLED market when Samsung and LG are already there, you have that ghastly feeling of deja vu of hyper competition, and nobody making money,” he said.

According to Gray, OLED can be a profitable market, but those involved need to be canny about the way TVs are marketed, as prices are likely to stay high at least in the short term.

“It depends on strategy,” Gray said. “Making money tomorrow has been the strategy so far [in the LCD market].”  

If vendors “go in with the strategy that ‘we will make money from day one, we will drag it out for as long as we can for a premium product with large margins’” then the all involved could succeed.

“The risk is that someone breaks ranks,” Gray said. “If you market it as a premium brand, as something unique and special, you can get away with it.  but you have to sell it differently.”

Worldwide TV shipments see first drop in years

After years of growth it appears that market saturation has bitten in to the TV market, with shipment growth at its lowest in years.

In 2011 worldwide shipments for TVs fell for the first time since DisplaySearch began tracking them back in 2004, with successive years of growth coming to a halt.

While there were various reasons behind a slowing in growth, most prominent is the lack of demand for LCDs, particularly in mature regions.

Japan may have been affected by the stopping of a government backed EcoPoints project, but growth in developed markets generally showed signs of tailing off.

Although LCD TV shipments were up by seven percent in 2011 to 205 million units, this was still less than the double-digit growth that has become the norm. In the fourth quarter, shipments increased by just one percent.

Although this is partially due to increased inventories, the proliferation of flatscreen sets in places such as the UK and US has taken its toll.

Furthermore, the growth for LCD TV shipments was not enough to keep the overall market up, with continued drops in other TV types.  For example, plasma TV shipments declined 7 percent to 17.2 million units, while the continued replacement of CRT sets meant a 34 percent fall.

With reduced growth in the LCD market this meant that the overall TV shipments were down by 0.3 percent to 247.7 million units.

Shipments in emerging regions were strong in the fourth quarter, rising 12 percent year on year, with LCD TVs growing to account for 20 percent of shipments.  In North America, Japan and Western Europe Q4 shipments were down by 21 percent.

3D shipments increased to 14 percent of all global shipments.  Strangely, according to DisplaySearch analyst Paul Gray, in the US 3D shipments accounted for just nine percent of the market, despite relatively good access to 3D content, while Western Europe saw 3D sets account for 21 percent of shipments despite a paucity.

According to Gray, the results of the report show that the days of massive growth figures in areas such as Western Europe or North America are likely behind us, with markets becoming saturated with LCDs.

“In mature markets anybody who really wants a flat TV already has one – it is now a discretionary purchase,” he told TechEye.  “It is the end of the glory years when it was a hot new category.”

Gray said the economy right now doesn’t help. “Consumers have to be enticed by all sorts of deals,” he said. “It is just a return to the everyday reality of it being a mature replacement market.”

According to Gray, consumers in developed markets are now generally in replacement cycles and are looking to spend their cash on other products.

“Maybe last year the industry managed to defy gravity one last time, but in the end people tend to buy TVs and then replace them every seven or eight years,” he said.  “The TV market, in the end, will track the number of households – and the population is not growing in Europe.

“The underlying story behind all this is that you had five years where the TV has been at the top of the list of what people would pay 500 quid on. Now people are saying they would rather have a tablet or a laptop – the TV is not at the top of the list as it has been in the past few years.”

Smart TV hype suggests Android home invasion

With this year’s CES open for business, it seems that one of the headline products is web-connected smart TVs.

Last year may have seen 3D sets begin to make their mark, but after notably failing to make the desired impact, attention appears to be turning towards smart TVs.

We have already seen LG talk up its Google 2.0 TV, while Lenovo has announced its own Android-based set too, and it’s expected that Samsung will enter the fray.  Apple has also been murmuring about its own web connected TV recently, where it hopes it will win on content.

A report from DisplaySearch also suggests that this could be a sign of things to come.  In many countries, replacing sets is largely pushed by consumer interest in web-connected TVs rather than 3D.  In North America, this means that the million smart TVs sold in 2011 will increase to 24.7 million by 2014.

Just as 3D has struggled to become ubiquitous in the home, it seems that smart TVs will also face some challenges.

While launching of a wide range of sets should see a large increase in numbers shipped over the coming years, the impact is not expected to be huge. As smart TVs become more sophisticated there is increasing functionality, like apps and full browsers.  Indeed, the Lenovo K91 almost blurs the line between TV and all-in-one PC.

In the early days, such features will put device makers in direct competition with themselves, as they sell more accessible products like tablets. It’s on mobile devices that apps and web surfing are more at home, rather than on a screen across the room.

According to DisplaySearch, by 2015 TVs with unlimited web browsing capacity will make up under 10 percent of those shipped in Western Europe.

But as smart devices like tablets and smartphones become even more commonplace in homes there’s likely to be more scope for them to work together.  Watching TV is more suited to larger TV sets, and it’s the ability to wirelessly connect with tablets and smartphones will make smart TVs more useful.

It could be argued smart TVs are a sign that we’re on the way to convergence in the home. Which begs the question – which operating system is going to win out, in the end? It’s hard to see Apple’s locked-in approach winning hearts and minds forever. The nature of Android on a range of devices offers consumers the ability to pick and choose while staying on the same OS, rather than Cupertino’s like it or lump it approach. It was always Samsung’s idea when it originally pushed BaDa.

Companies like Qualcomm are ploughing heaps of cash into R&D, convinced that there will be convergence – eventually tying in with the Internet of Things – where your smartphone will act as the central, personal device for everything else around you.

With some high-profile smart TV announcements made and more surely yet to come, we’re certain the battle for controlling all the screens in and out of your home is going to escalate. No wonder the patent cases are flying.



Capacitive touch shipments to soar in 2012

A new wave of products could see capacitive touchscreen shipments hit even greater heights in 2012 than the impressive figures already notched up this year.

Analysts at DisplaySearch have noted that estimates for capacitive touchscreens will hit 566 million in 2011 as smartphones continue to proliferate across the electronics market.

It has been through the popularity of smartphones that the capacitive touchscreen, which makes use of electricity from the human body to detect touch, is making such headways into the market.

This is only set to increase in 2012 as more and more devices pick up on capacitive touch technology.  With a thinner structure and lighter weight, capacitive touchscreens are more responsive than the resistive type, and it is expected that new production methods are will enhance screens in the next year.  Sensor-on-cover touch devices developed by Wintek and Cando are expected to see good sales.

While Apple led the way with capacitive touch on smartphones and tablets, it is the introduction of the long awaited Windows 8 that will see the technology grow rapidly in 2012.

There are various examples of touchscreen all-in-one PCs and laptops on the market at the moment but it will be the release of the touch-friendly Microsoft OS that will massively expand the range of products.

One of the features on Windows 8 will be larger tiles and icons for an easier touch interface.  This will make the technology much more accessible on a range of devices.

With Intel’s much hyped Ultrabooks about to enter their next generation of products, it is thought that 2012 will also start to see many other devices fitted with touchscreen compatibility.  And if Intel’s projected sales are accurate then capacitive touch could get a real boost.

Education and training applications are also expected, with optical imaging and infrared touch making an impact on even larger scale screens than all-in-one PCs.  Multi-media teaching systems are already being developed across the world with screens over 30 inches.

Resistive touch has not been forgotten.  Though long design cycles will hamper any serious short term impact, resistive touchscreen systems are getting snapped up in automotive monitors.

Of course, it could be only a matter of time before all touchscreen types are considered old hat.  If recent reports are to believed there are already devices in development which rely soley on gestures.  Israeli firm XTR3D is planning to release a gesture-based smartphone in 2012, though whether or not the technology will be able to usurp touchscreen remains to be seen.

Panel maker cartel hit with hefty price fixing fines

Some of the biggest players in the panel business have been found guilty of price fixing, with fines being handed to Samsung, LG Display and others by South Korean authorities.

The Korean Fair Trade Commission has landed the firms, which also include AU Optronics and Chimei Innolux, with fines totalling $175 million.

Though this figure is likely to come down once factors such as cooperation in the investigation into pricefixing are taken into account, it is significant ruling against the firms which account for around 80 percent of the world’s LCD panels.

According to the FTC the panel makers had colluded on minimum prices, pricing policies, timing of price increases and a ban on cash rebates between 2001 and 2006.

It was found that around 200 secret meetings took place over the course of six years to keep prices artificially high, and to confer on sales strategies.

This was bad news for customers as the cartel carried out meetings that they were fully aware contravened Korean laws.

It was Samsung, which had its Japanese and Taiwanese units investigated, that was hit the hardest with a $87.4 million fine.

LG Display was received a $58.9 million fine as the Korean authorities handed its harshest penalties ever for a price fixing probe, writes Taipei Times.

It is not the first time that Asian LCD makers have been found guilty of underhand pricing tactics.  A similar probe was conducted in the US and this appears to have opened the way for more action against the global suppliers.

In an EU investigation last year fines were handed out to some of the same culprits, while price fixing revelations in the US led to prison sentences being handed out to executives.

With the current state of the panel industry Display Search analyst Paul Gray says that it is likely that such practices have been largely stamped out.

“There have been several cases in the past so it is not a big surprise that different jurisdictions have brought charges against the companies involved,” he told TechEye.

“In the past the temptation was to price fix when things got difficult, but if they are price fixing now then they are doing it in a very costly manner.  This is because many companies are selling at just material prices due to the state of the panel industry.”

“Samsung , LG Display and others are all losing money and it is a very difficult time for the industry as demand drops.  While price fixing certainly occurred in the past it would be a bit of a conspiracy theory to say that were doing it in these conditions.”

“The evidence is that everyone is really suffering at the moment.”

“Currently firms are having to idle-off capacity, for example doing maintenance work on weekdays rather than weekends or holidays.”

“Yes they got caught, and yes people have gone to prison over it, but it seems that now they have cleaned up their act.”

x86 will find its feet in tablets – eventually

The world and its dog prefers ARM architecture right now, it’s true, but analysts expect the x86 to edge its way into the tablet market in 2013.

DisplaySearch’s beancounters have drummed up a set of statistics published in the new Tablet Quarterly report. They think that tablets are in it for the long haul, with global shipments expected to hit 330 million by 2017, which we admit is looking rather far ahead. If so, that would be up from under 60 million units in 2011, DisplaySearch says. Actually, the figure is 59.9 million, which is a growth of 211 percent units shipped from last year. 

Tablets and notebooks will act as Yin and Yang in the mobile computing segment. Richard Shim, a senior analyst, said “each product category will influence the other over time – still, the incumbent platforms have inherent advantages in the early years.”

When Windows 8 tips up, it’ll be ready to make inroads in the mobile PC market, but won’t grow enough to take a significant share of the market until 2013, the analyst house reckons. 

If the 2013 prediction rings true, 2012 would be yet another year Intel has missed out on mobile, but its CEO in Otellini has said that there are plans in motion to steal that share away.  An Intel spokesperson recently suggested to us, it’s not about being the first to market, it’s about being the best in the market. Either way, it’s clear which camp the soothsayers are betting on, with ARM penned in for the stronger position, as the graph below shows. 

Displaysearch expects that Apple will face some real challenges in the tablet market. Amazon, for example, is shaking up the egosystem with its new Kindle, which is introducing “even more non-Windows and non-x86 thinking”, meaning Microsoft and Intel need to do their best to catch up.

Regular PCs will probably not become too adventurous and stick with Windows and x86, though there will be some to try out ARM’s options.

The analysts gave no nod to the Ultrabook – probably because no one’s quite sure what the Ultrabook is going to become, yet.

Students snap up knock-off tablets

With Apple retaining its stranglehold on the tablet PC market, it seems that its big name rivals are still unable to knock the iPad off its perch.

While MotorolaDell and many others attempt to muscle in on the iPad’s territory it is the non-branded ‘whitebox’ vendors which are creating the most significant competition to Apple.

According to DisplaySearch, whitebox vendors are the fastest growing segment in the worldwide market for tablet PCs.

The cheapo, Del-Boy style tablets saw an impressive 235 percent shipment unit increase from the final quarter of 2010 to the first quarter of 2011, as shipments increased from 567,000 units to 1.9 million over the period.

It was in China that the majority of whitebox tablets were flogged, accounting for 44 percent of the overall worldwide shipments, with screen sizes primarily in the 7 inch 10.1 inch categories.

The knock-off tabs are being bought up by those in search of a bargain, with students unfazed by the low quality of the products due to the reduced cost involved.

But as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for, and according to DisplaySearch many of the whitebox devices use substandard components. Manufacturers are utilising panels that bigger brands would turn their noses up at because of shoddy brightness levels, for example.

As well as China, there is more room for growth for the bargain bin tablets, with emerging regions such as Asia Pacific, Latin America and parts of EMEA.

According to DisplaySearch, the emergence of the whitebox tablet market is being driven by the ability to undercut big name vendors which are currently operating with a “healthy premium on the cost of the hardware components”.

Overall shipments of tablets were down however, falling 5.2 percent quarterly from with 10.2 million units at the end of last year to 9.7 million at the start of 2011.

There was still a massive thirteen-fold increase from the same point last year, moving from 668,000 shipment units in the first quarter of last year to 9.7 million this year

248 million TVs shipped in 2010

Total TV shipments grew worldwide by 18 percent year on year in 2010, rising to 248 million units.

Flat panels grew 32 percent in 2010 by units. However, along with the industry in general, the growth will lessen to 12 percent for all of 2011. The total TV shipment growth will see less than four percent year on year in 2011 because, according to Displaysearch, “slower price erosion cools demand in developed markets.”

Emerging markets will be the top growth drivers because there is a low level of penetration for flat panel TVs in the household. But in Western Europe, North America and Japan where the penetration is high at about 60 percent, the growth rate has to slow down.

The top TV for 2010 is LCDs, and will account for roughly 84 percent of all shipments in 2011. CRT TVs continue to die a death, and will be replaced by LCDs worldwide. We can expect a 13 percent increase on shipments for LCDs in 2011, up from 192 million last year to 217 million this year.

Of LCD TVs, backlights will take the lion’s share, making up 50 percent of those shipped during 2011 and finding a place in a larger number of screen sizes, particularly in the high end, 40″ plus territory. Similarly for those high performance tellies, 120Hz and higher refresh rates will make up 60 percent of TVs with 40″ plus screen sizes.

3D TVs will achieve high penetration, says DisplaySearch, simply because they will ship as default. While 3D made up only 10 percent of Q4 2010 TV revenues at 2 million units, by 2014 it should rise to 50 percent of revenues and 100 million units worldwide.

Plasma TV enjoyed a surprising comeback, with shipment growth up from -1.5 percent in 2009 up to 30 percent in 2010. That’s because people were after a bargain. But it won’t last, with DisplaySearch expecting growth to “slow considerably” for the first quarter 2011 and decline again in the second half. 

Apple will take most touchscreen shipments in 2011

Touchscreens produced for tablets are expected to reach shipments of 60 million units this year, with no prizes for guessing which company will account for the lion’s share.

However the proportion of screens destined for non-Apple tablet PCs is set to increase, with the iPad market dominance likely to subside over time up until 2016 according to DisplaySearch analysis, when the total shipped units could reach 260 million, representing an increase of 333 percent.

According to  Jennifer Colegrove, Vice President of Emerging Display Technologies for DisplaySearch, tablets are the “fastest growing application for touchscreens” – with most tablets leveraging “multi-touch projected capacitive technology” like Apple.

She also points out that some manufacturers are using resistive touch, due to the ability to enable handwriting recognition and its lower price.

Apple’s own iPad 2 was subject to a teardown recently, with its touchscreen costing an estimated $127 according to IHS iSuppli, up from $95 for its previous incarnation.

The way that the supply chain is evolving is said to vary between different regions of production, with Taiwanese suppliers focusing on the overall value chain while expanding their manufacturing capacity for the touch panels.

At the same time Japanese suppliers have struggled to grow due to the strength of the yen over foreign currencies.

Over 10 different structures are in use for projected capacitive touch screens at the moment, due to the different IP and manufacturing strengths and weakness of each supplier.

According to Colgrove it is the suppliers which are able to utlilise simpler structures, alongside fewer materials and processes, that are in a good position to make a push ahead in the market.

DisplaySearch also noted that the the market for touchscreens is continuing to expand into other areas with a large number of firms utilising the technology in a variety of interesting ways.

At CES this year there was a deluge of tablets from all the usual suspects, and there are increasingly more desktops and laptops that utilise the technology in interesting ways that should mean the continued increase of touchscreens.

One example is the reclining display HP all-in-one PC, which is able to tilt back by 60 degrees to allow easier access to the touch screen, something which has so far hindered the usefulness of touchscreens in the desktop environment.

The Dell Inspiron Duo is able to switch to a netbook to a tablet swiftly, offering another way in which the technology can be implemented.