After years of uncertainty over whether there would ever be a workable solution for low-power and zero-power displays, the technologies are finally in place and a real market is beginning to take shape.
In fact, unit shipments for bi-stable displays — a set of technologies that spans LCDs, electrophoretic, and electrochromic, among others — are expected to increase by a factor of about 12 from 2007 to 2012, iSuppli Corp predicts.
“Bi-stable displays have the capability to sustain images with zero-power consumption,” said Jennifer Colegrove, senior analyst for emerging displays at iSuppli. “This makes them well suited for use in flash-memory storage devices, smart cards and e-book applications. More than likely, heated competition between bi-stable displays and low-power LCDs will flare up soon as manufacturers of both technologies vie for the electronic-shelf-label (ESL), point-of-sale (POS) and mobile-phone markets.”
Strong growth is expected during the coming years as demand rises. The demand is being driven by companies that are trying to limit the power consumption of their portable devices and always-on signage to extend their battery life.
Global shipments of bi-stable displays are expected to reach 350 million units by 2012, increasing at a CAGR of 65 per cent from a mere 29 million units in 2007. Market revenue is forecast to reach $516 million by 2012, rising at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 46 per cent from an estimated $77.9 million in 2007.
The market for low-power forms of existing LCD and Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) displays also is set to grow rapidly, reaching $24 billion in sales by 2012, rising at a CAGR of 27 percent from $6 billion in 2007, according to iSuppli.
Low-power LCD types include reflective, low-power transmissive and low-power transflective.
Such low-power transmissive and transflective LCDs are defined according to their power consumption for certain screen sizes, brightness and performance.
Low-power LCDs will continue to dominate the notebook PC market as well as ultra-mobile PCs, Portable Media Players (PMPs) and most other mobile devices. This is because there is a requirement for full color and fast response time in such applications—something bi-stable displays have yet to achieve.
Battery-dependent products—including mobile phones, notebook computers, digital still cameras and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs)—need longer battery charges. These products require displays with reduced power consumption. This requirement is coming from equipment manufacturers as well as consumers who want their notebook PCs to run longer, their iPods to play more songs and their digital cameras to take more pictures.
Of course, in a perfect world, where no cost constraints exist, every consumer-electronics and digital-signage company would opt for low-power or bi-stable displays, due to their benefits. Unfortunately, until the technology and manufacturing processes mature, low-power LCD, OLED and bi-stable displays will continue to command a price premium to compensate for the many years of R&D and the costs of manufacturing, which now are higher than they are for mass-market LCDs.