IFA 2008 is over and we saw many new products and a huge amount of very interesting TVs. In this article we take a look at future trends on the flat screen TV market based on what we saw on the most interesting IFA fair we have attended in the last few years.
The IFA fair consisted of 26 exhibition halls - some very large. Most known manufacturers had a dedicated hall and this year the IFA fair also featured white goods and other household products. That is not in our league, however, so let us take a look at some trends and cool new TVs.
We have divided the significant trends into sections:
We have missed Sony the last few years on most major trade fairs but this year they had an impressive come-back at the IFA with groundbreaking news and cool new products and technologies. The ZX1 series, which is less than a centimeter thick, was one of the new TVs from Sony. The slim 9,9 mm LCD-TV is not just a TV though, it's also a significant new trend in the flat screen business.
See the ZX1 TV in this video:
But Sony is not the only one who was noted for flatter TV. A general market trend towards flatter screens is evident and some of the slim OLED-TVs presented measured just a few millimeters (OLED). Slimmer LCD-TV and plasma-TVs were presented, too, and in 2009 we can expect to see new models measuring only a few centimeters. The first models were announced back in 2007, but it seems that 2009 will be the year of slimmer TVs; this means both new design concepts and more discrete TVs.
Apart from Sony, Samsung has also brought some conceptual models, that were only a few centimeters thick. Also, see this recording of Samsung's prototype.
However, it is not only LCD-TV that is moving towards thinner displays. The plasma technology also has potential and during CES 2008, back in January, Pioneer showed to the world, a thin prototype of a KURO plasma-TV. Panasonic used IFA 2008 to demonstrate their NEO PDP and Hitachi is also bragging about their new slim TVs.
Here is the Panasonic Neo PDP:
Philips also had a prototype of a LCD-TV with a depth of merely 8 millimeters. That is even thinner than Sony's ZX1 series but Philips' TV is only a prototype and is not scheduled for a market introduction yet.
When talking about slimmer TVs the OLED technology automatically pops into our head. Because even though OLED-TVs are not sold yet the prototypes are impressive because of the very, very slim profile. So let's take a look at OLED.
There is no doubt that OLED has huge potential. The manufacturers have had a hard time making the blue OLED colour last more than a few thousand hours before the light intensity was down to 50 %. It means a short lifetime but also that the blue colour lost intensity faster than the red and green colours resulting in an imbalance in the picture colour combination.
Manufacturers have been able to extend the lifetime considerably the last few years while maintaining a high brightness. OLED lifetime is not yet equal to that of LCD and plasma but there is steady progress and manufacturers expect that the problem is soon coped with and forgotten.
The OLED technology use small organic light-emitting diodes to create light in different colors. Unlike LCD technology, OLED has no backlight - the diodes create the light. The OLED technology also has a number of technological advances over conventional display technologies leading to better viewing angles, contrast and color precision and saturation.
Sony 11" OLED-TV
Sony once again proved that they are years in front of the competition and they are also one of the major proponents of the new amazing technology. They already have the first real OLED-TV on the shelves with their 11-inch XEL-1. This OLED-TV is on its way to Europe and I got the chance to play with it at IFA. It is really impressive and image quality reaches new heights compared to LCD and plasma. And believe me, even though it is only a 11 inch panel, it has an amazing picture.
Also, see this movie:
In addition, Sony had also brought a 27-inch OLED prototype that made the crowd drool.
Samsung is one of the other major proponents of OLED and they made this clear by demonstrating their 14-inch and 31-inch prototype. I have seen the two panels before but this time they resembled - almost - real products. I talked to Samsung, however, and at the moment they have no plan to introduce the two OLED TVs."Maybe 2010", they say. Let's hope so.
It did not make me less ecstatic over OLED, however, and I predict the new technology a great future. If not in within the next 2-3 years, then later.
Obviously existing panel technologies can gain on OLED in the meantime - and they have done so already. OLED have already accelerated the trend towards slimmer panels but even though LCD-TVs and plasma-TVs are getting thinner and better, OLED has several advantages.
A panel technology need more than visual superiority to survive in a though and huge market. We have seen this more than once and you might remember SED. It is not dead but because it is not as versatile as LCD and OLED it cannot dominate the market. It can replace the plasma technology but neither plasma nor SED can challenge OLED or LCD as the dominant panel technology due to the fact that they only exist in +32 inches. We need a versatile and flexible panel technology for our small handheld gadgets.
And that is why OLED has a promising future. OLED is very versatile and flexible, ranging from tiny screens on a few inches to the giant TV screens. OLED panels can be massproduced very efficient, too - as well as economically. Also, most present LCD factories can be turned into OLED factories by upgrading the equipment which is an important factor.
Blu-Ray players and recorders
Blu-Ray has won the format war. That is definite. And even though Toshiba last convulsions have led to a"Blu-Ray challenger": the magic upscaling DVD player, Blu-Ray should not fear. HD-DVD is dead; Blu-Ray is the king.
We have longed for some Blu-Ray player announcements, though. And the prices are still too high. IFA 2008 had a fair amount of the Blu-Ray players on the floor, however, and that is a delight to see.
All the major manufacturers such as Sony, Samsung, Philips, Pioneer, Panasonic, etc. announced new Blu-Ray players.
We are experiencing a trend towards faster load times and more functionality-packed players (profile 1.1 and profile 2.0). Internet is the new buzz-word and most of the new players will be able to access the Internet to download extra content and trailers. Some of the players will be updated to feature the profile 2.0 spec later on but some are profile 2.0 from the start.
Panasonic DMR-BW500 Blu-Ray optager
A new trend is Blu-Ray recorders with built in hard drives. This allows you to record directly from your TV - even in HD. The first Blu-Ray recorder announced for the European market is from Panasonic. And the Asians can enjoy a few more new recorders.
LED in LCD-TVs
Even though OLED looks like a winner, the LCD technology is still very alive and kicking. The next big thing is LED backlights. We have talked about LED for some years now but integration has taking some time. The first LCD-TVs utilizing the LED technology have had some teething troubles. Not exactly because of the LED technology but because of the technologies the manufacturers have tried to combine with LED such as local dimming.
Samsung 9-serie with LED
In brief, LED can be explained as small light diodes (LED = light emitting diode). LED should be distinguished from OLED, however. OLED is also diodes but LEDs are used as backlight in LCD panels. In conventional LCD panels the manufacturers has been using fluorescent tubes. Fluorescent tubes have a yellow tint, however, and have a tendency to cause inhomogeneous light distribution.
Philips 9803 with LED
LED can solve both problems and allow for slimmer and more energy-efficient panels. The manufacturers have to master the technology and that is what Samsung, Sony and Philips are trying to do in 2009. The three of them have teased us with new high-end LCD-TVs and they all look very amazing.
You know the story. We can expect larger displays in the future and 2009 seems the be the year of 50 and 60-inch TVs.
Just a few years back the 32 inch TVs were common but today it is not unusual to see 50 inch TVs hanging in the modern living room. Sure, it is large at first sight but after just a few days in the living room it looks a lot more decent and acts as a natural part of the modern home.
Pioneer KRP-600A, 60"
The next step is 60 inches, and the important factor is of course the price.
Prices on 50-inch TVs have been falling steadily in 2008 and today you can get a 50-inch for less than 700 Euro. And now manufacturers indicate that 60-inch screens can be acquired at affordable prices in 2009 or 2010
Until now the factories have been the Achilles heel as it has been too cost-inefficient to produce 60" panels. Most LCD panel manufacturers have been ramping up new and larger LCD factories and in the next few years 10G (10. generation) and 11G (11. generation) factories will be ready.
This means larger mother-substrates that can be cut into more - or larger - panels at a lower price.
Most exhibition booths made clear that larger screens are on the way. Some had even brought massive TVs like Panasonic. They exhibited their 150" plasma-TV which is the largest TV on the market.
After 60-inch, manufacturers are expected to move on to 65 and 70-inch screens.
The home is becoming wireless and this is one of the trends that I am most excited about. Not because I hate cables but because the wireless technologies give us a lot of new opportunities to transfer film, music and pictures over a great distance with ease.
I, personally, would like to have access to my pictures everywhere in my home; on every TV, any computer and any laptop. I would also like to hear my music everywhere but without transferring it to all devices but keeping it on one central"server".
The rather new - or at least upcoming - DLNA technology can help me with this. DLNA allows the user to share music, movies and pictures and wirelessly streaming it to, let's say a TV. You just install a program - for example TVersity - on your PC and select the items you want to share; now your new DLNA enabled TV can access these items and play/show them.
Sony, Samsung, Philips and Pioneer all bet on this new DLNA system to make the TV wireless. DLNA is also integrated into cameras, mobile phones, printers etc.
Other wireless systems were demonstrated, too. Including the two new standards for wireless transmission of HD signals called WHDI and Wireless HD. WHDI were demonstrated in the ZX1 and EX1 series from Sony with external media boxes. In practice you connect all your inputs to the external media box. So if you have a Blu-Ray player you connect the HDMI input to the external media box, store away the box, and wirelessly transmits all the data directly to your TV with almost no loss of picture and sounds quality.
The technology can be extended to fit PC monitors and other devices, too.
You need the latest flash-plugin to view this example. Download here
WHDI at home
Design changes over time, and for some time the trend has been the black high-gloss finish. Especially Samsung has used the glossy black with great success. The black high gloss is still going strong but new design trends emerge and one of them is the white color. Sony has, amongst others, presented their white picture frame E series and Samsung are also betting on a high gloss white TV.
Panasonic used some of their prototypes to test the reactions on a white plasma TV.
Philips Aurea 2
Philips already has a Aurea model on the market with a white frame that is illuminated by Ambilight. On IFA 2008 they demonstrated the Aurea 2.
Below you see the Reference series by Loewe - here a 70 inch version. It was - in my opinion - one of the most breathtaking television designs at the IFA fair. Loewe combined the chic piano-lacquer with silver. It was absolutely beautiful! (!!)
Most manufacturers hide speakers nowadays. It has a negative effect on sound quality but consumers seem to think that's a fair trade-off. A lot of new models with hidden speakers were on display at IFA, too.
In order to make an elegant design one must make sure to use a minimalistic and discrete frame. I have already talked about trends towards thin screens but thin frames are just as popular.
Philips brushed steel
White seems to be on the rise but black is still very popular. Also Philips presented this TV in brushed steel.
Here I will conclude the IFA 2008 Trends article. IFA 2008 was very entertaining with a lot of spectacular new products. The fair is gigantic, so with just one day on the floors it was hard to see everything. We did manage to visit all of the major TV manufacturers and we can tell you that you have a lot of nice TVs to look forward to.
We see you next year at IFA 2009. Also make sure to check FlatpanelsHD in January 2009 when we take a look at the CES 2009 fair in Las Vegas.