It's All About Change


It seems that now more than ever the term "change" gets used in almost every sentence and is applied to seemingly every situation. Sometimes change is good; other times it is not. Certainly, the current global economic situation is forcing change on all of us, in the form of job cutbacks, re-organizations, and significant reductions in already frugal corporate spending. Many member companies in the display industry, if they have not already announced staff reductions, are certainly slashing their R&D spending and finding every way possible to preserve capital. The storm, as these things are often referred to, is well under way, and we have no real idea of how bad it will get or when it will pass.

The consumers that fuel our industry are spending much less money on new gadgets, and the industry has done such a good job already in populating homes and workplaces with new technology that we are facing a severe shortage of unmet needs as well as a shortage of disposable income. It may not feel so good to be a display technologist these days. Still, even during this storm, consumers will spend billions on new technology and almost all of it will include a display. Therefore, in the midst of this turmoil, it is important not to lose focus on the core value of technology research and differentiation through innovation. A sad reality is that when an industry reduces its R&D infrastructure, it rarely reverses itself.

It's easily recognized that companies with the highest intrinsic value are those that can truly differentiate themselves in their markets. Having a unique solution appears to be much more recession-proof than image and brand alone.

Staying focused on providing unique technology solutions will be more important than ever because another change is coming as well, a change in consumer behavior that goes beyond mere belt-tightening. As impulse buying drops, consumers will be more selective in their technology choices that include TVs, phones, and monitors and make more considered buying decisions than they have before. In this climate, therefore, we may see a new sorting process where the surviving companies will be the ones who offer newer solutions at lower cost points than their peers. The right solution will not be cost alone but best "value," which is an elusive metric to quantify.

As we all know, the display is one of the most critical differentiators in product selection. Those that truly appreciate this will protect their display know-how and nurture their technology investments to seek greater value in their products rather than spending recklessly on their brand and image. This is a climate in which I think that trade-off will pay off, and I believe there are players in our industry who understand this. So, maybe it's not such a bad idea to be in displays after all.

Continuing our discussion of change, I'm very pleased to bring you this month three articles on the commercialization of LED technology for LCD backlighting, solicited and edited by our highly respected guest editor David DeAgazio. As David explains in his editorial, we're seeing rapid change in the deployment of LEDs, moving from a technology used mostly in small handheld devices to the illumination source of choice for almost all LCD applications. It was less than 5 years ago that the very first concept products were demonstrated and a wide variety of practical implementation problems were recognized. One of the very first LED-backlit LCD monitors to be commercialized was an NEC product designed for the high-end desktop graphics marketplace. NEC's effort was enough to get numerous others excited and to justify significant R&D investment in core devices as well as light guides, mixing films, packaging architectures, and drive electronics. Today, in fact, there are several major semiconductor companies offering single-chip driver solutions for LED arrays, a major enabling factor from a segment of our industry that rarely supports niche applications. They know where this is heading, and so do we. This is a significant growth opportunity for the adopting and enabling companies and we'll be here watching. We're very grateful to David for all his work in preparing this issue and hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did putting it together.

Change has also taken place very close to home. This month we welcome our new Managing Editor, Jenny Donelan. Jenny brings with her a wide range of publishing and editing experience, having previously managed both Computer Graphics World and BYTEmagazines, and she has built a strong portfolio as a freelance writer and editor. Jenny will be responsible for all in-house content creation as well as the final editing and preparation of our normal monthly features. She gets her start this month not only in building this issue but also in giving you a glimpse into all the great offerings in San Antonio for this year's Display Week travel guide. We enthusiastically welcome Jenny and hope that she has found here a working home she can be comfortable in for a long time.

– Stephen Atwood