It's a Wrap for Display Week 2008


I can't write a column on Display Week 2008 held in Los Angeles without throwing in at least one Hollywood metaphor: "It's a wrap!" This is the phrase Hollywood directors shout out at the end of a production, letting everyone know that filming is complete, the actors can go home, and the staff can tear down the set. Watching the workers packing up the booths from the Exhibition late Friday during Display Week, made me think of the production that was Display Week, and the many stories told by the cast of thousands.

While Information Display will provide a complete review of Display Week '08 in our August issue, in this space I'm going to delve into a few larger themes that impressed me during Display Week: Innovation, Revolution, Ubiquity, Going Green, and Prosperity.

That attendees would see things reflective of Innovation at a SID symposium almost goes without saying. Several times during the week, I was blown away by the progress made on nearly all fronts of display technology. Organic light-emitting-diode (OLED) displays got bigger, brighter, and longer-lived, but also are demonstrating compatibility with new types of backplane technologies. All this points to a time in the future in which OLED displays might displace liquid-crystal displays (LCDs) as the primary display technology, very much as LCDs have displaced cathode-ray tubes (CRTS) in the past decade.

Of course, the LCD proponents will say "not so fast," and point out that OLEDs are great compared to LCDs, as long as you ignore size, cost, and availability. In the meantime, the engineers behind the juggernaut that is LCD have developed displays that are faster, have a lower power consumption, and a wider viewing angle, and continued reductions in cost. Plasma, projection, and other display technologies also had a major presence, creating the churn of competition that keeps electronic-display technology so vibrant.

Revolution is a word that is often overused. Here, I mean it in context of new types of technology that can fundamentally alter how displays are used, where they are used, and what new applications are enabled by new technologies. Several technologies on display offer the possibility of rewriting usage models for displays, putting them in places where displays have rarely been, and changing how the content served on the display might need to adapt to keep pace with the display capability.

Display Week 2008 showed a heavy presence of revolutionary technologies. Touch interfaces for displays may fundamentally alter the way the people interact with their displays, making the display an even more critical aspect of the machine-person interface. 3-D displays provide a brand-new set of capabilities for movie makers to provide a more realistic (or in some cases, unrealistic!) world to the audience. At Display Week 2008, it was even possible to see interesting concepts such as changeable "skins" for objects that can change color over the entire surface of a device. Imagine a cell phone where the color of the handset changes each time the phone rings, depending on who's calling!

Ubiquity is the coming trend that is going to put an electronic, visual interface nearly everywhere. Flexible and low-power displays can be placed where they have never been before, increasing the ability for people to interact with networked devices anyplace they go. Displays on shelves, displays in fabrics, displays wrapped around corners, displays going weeks or months without requiring a recharge, and displays specially engineered for computers designed for emerging economies – all these capabilities offer new potential for designers to add even greater functionality, and impact more people, on a worldwide basis.

Given the vast size of the electronic-display industry, its products and practices leave a significant footprint on the world. Many companies now recognize that Going Green is both a good way to show responsibility, and that it's good for business. I plan on discus-sing green technologies in a future column, but suffice it to say that many companies now recognize that using green technologies, and making their products energy efficient, offers them a competitive advantage that can drive growth with good margins. People may look back and see that Display Week 2008 marked the beginning of the major trend of technologies developed and marketed specifically for their environmental friendliness; I expect green to be the color of choice for SID meetings for many years to come.

Finally, Prosperity is the lifeblood of the industry, and we're fortunate to be in an industry that is still growing at a healthy pace. I spoke to a number of people during the week from all areas of the electronic-display industry. Many business leaders told me that their companies are coming off of a very good year. Researchers and engineers are finding that their talents are in strong demand, as companies strive to differentiate themselves from the intense competition. Sales and business-development staff on the exhibit floor were generally quite pleased with the amount of traffic. Many companies were delighted by their ability to show both the display community and assembled media that their products are best in class. This type of publicity builds buzz around a company and brand.

Time and again, I heard about the connections being made on the exhibit floor, during the symposium sessions, and in the various networking events. The face-to-face contact you get when bringing industry leaders together is almost magical in driving the next round of innovation and is a major aspect of the attraction of Display Week for SID.

So, it's a wrap, but I can't wait to see the next installment next year. See you in San Antonio!

Paul Drzaic
Society for Information Display