Texas Instruments (TI) Attempt to Revive DLP Chip Sales

In 2004, DLP chip sales were $900 million, quite a bit more than $500 million from the year before. Sales declined 8% in 2005 due to over-ordering and inventory build-up. DLP chips can go up to 1920 x 1080 in resolution and can be integrated into a housing that’s only 9.5″ deep at about 40″, about 1/2 the depth of most DLP units out there. That would give it some needed help to compete against LCD and plasma. Sony’s 40″ LCD TVs, in addition to Samsung’s 40″ LCD TVs, have been super competitive in terms of price, design and simple desirability. DLP sets are much cheaper though with about a $50 per diagonal inch compared to $169 for LCD and $99 for plasma in January 2005. A year later in January 2006, LCD TV’s price per inch was $90 and plasma was $70.

TI is shrinking the mirror arrays in the 720p DLP chips from 0.55″ to 0.45″, reducing the cost and hopefully the cost of the DLP TV set. The smaller chips also require smaller optical projection components, reducing the component cost of the DLP TV. Expect 42″ DLP TVs to cost less than $1500 soon. I’m waiting for that magic price of $999 for a 42″ TV that can do Full HD (1920 x 1080). Whoever gets to that price first will get a sale.

Source: Electronic Business

Acer TravelMate 3000 Notebook: red dot Product Design 2005 Award Winner

One of the greatest products combine excellent design geared toward ease of use, with a simple elegance that is pleasing to the eye and combining that with great technology. The Acer TravelMate 3000 weighs only 1.4kg (a little more than 3lbs), is 25mm thin (a little less than an inch), and the batteries last 4 1/2 hours. The 3000 has a 12.1″ wide TFT LCD with 1280 x 800 resolution. Connectivity includes an Ethernet port, WiFi, PAN, modem and optical (FIR). A nice touch is the units non-slip carry grip. Many of the sexy designs slip right out of your grip and I’m glad to see Acer make the design work with how it will be used.

If I had it my way, I would use a non-existent 1680 x 1050 resolution 12.1″ wide TFT LCD that is not glossy. I would shrink down the thickness a bit more to say 0.8lbs and make it weigh about 2lbs. I would also make the battery last around 7 hours, if possible. I wonder if there is an operating system that is completely resolution independent…

Source: red dot

Pioneer to Open US Retail Stores

Pioneer’s retail stores in the US will allow the consumer to do it all: select, design and install a complete system. In addition to the usual Pioneer and Pioneer Elite products, the company’s products geared for its domestic market will also be pilot tested. There have been many times when products in the Japanese market have been much more desireable than the onese we have here, so I think this is a good move for Pioneer to at least see how US customers might react.

Pioneer’s Pure Malt Speakers, made of recycled whiskey barrels, will be one of the products that the company will be pilot testing. I would think those that are environmentally sensitive would be very interested in something like this as long as it works well as speakers.

The first store will be located in Costa Mesa in the South Coast Plaza. It will be 3200 square-feet and scheduled to open in August 2006.

Source: Digital Trends

Matsushita Doubles Plasma TV Capacity

Matsushita increased its plasma TV capacity 2.3x from 1.5 million to 3.42 million units per year. The factory is located in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture and has also more than double the number of factory workers to 850, compared to 400 in September 2005. Matsushita’s total plasma TV production capacity is 5.52 million per year including the plants located in Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture and its Shanghai plant. Matsushita will invest 180 billion yen to build the world’s largest plasma TV factory next to its Amagasaki plant and the factory will start mass production in July 2007.

Source: The Japan Times

Seiko Epson Driver ICs for 176 x 220 Mobile Phone Displays

Seiko Epson’s new S1D19501 series driver ICs for 176 x 220 TFT LCD mobile phone displays is a one-chip driver with display data RAM and 262K color capability. A 220-output gate driver and 176-RGB-output source driver is embedded in addition to power circuits into a single chip. The S1D19501 series uses a 0.13 micron process and is Epson’s third generation of driver ICs. The short side of the driver IC has been reduced to only 34% of conventional size at 1mm.

Source: Electronic Engineering Times

LG.Philips LCD RoHS Testing Lab

LPL announced on June 29 that the company became the first TFT-LCD manufacturer to be recognized as an internationally accredited Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) testing laboratory by the German accreditation organization. LPL’s lab will have the same credibitlity as tests performed by official authorized test centers. This will allow LPL to reduce cost associated with testing at external locations and improve product accreditation processes. In addition, this will reduce the potential of core technologies leaking to competitors.

LPL is also operating a Green Purchasing System that blocks hazardous materials from being purchased enabling the company to be lead-free in all of its TFT LCD panels from January 2005. RoHS was implemented by June 2006.

It’s good to see companies taking the RoHS policy seriously as the environmental impact of LCDs will only increase as more and more displays with LCDs penetrate our living environments. As LCD-incorporated devices before RoHS-compliance are retired from use and thrown away, we will eventually be forced to deal with lead and mercury flooding our landfills and our water systems. I wonder if TFT LCD manufacturers will initiate a recycling program specifically targeted toward the display panels.

Source: LG.Philips LCD

Asus W2Jb 17″ Notebook PC

The Asus W2Jb was given 4 dots out of 5 by PC Magazine for its value, sleek design, fast components, security and sound. In my opinion, the display weakness, severly limits the W2Jb as a multimedia-centered notebook. Gaming would be limited to a low resolution of 1440 x 900 and Full HD viewing would not be possible–a serious limitation indeed. With a large 17″ display on a notebok PC, expectations are for the pixel format to be at least 1680 x 1050, matching Apple’s new 17″ MacBook Pro. Apple tends to have notebook PC displays at 100 ppi and only recently increased to around 110 ppi–generally a little lower than higher end displays from other notebook brands. The high-powered ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 GPU that powers the display might have been a better fit for a higher resolution display than W2Jb’s 1440 x 900. Not all is lost: most games that require powerful GPUs play faster (better?) at the expense of detail loss.

Other specifications include:

Windows XP Media Center
Intel Core Duo T2600, 2.16GHz
2GB RAM
120GB HD
DVD+R DL
802.11a/g
7.9lbs
$2,200

The W2Jb limits its multimedia capabilities due to its low-end display. I would recommend a Dell 17″ with 1920×1200 for much less (albeit with much less external coolness) but providing a richer multimedia experience.

Source: PCMag.com

Inkel WideTouch 5.6″, 7.0″ Navigation and DMB

Inkel’s WideTouch portable navigation units are multifunctional. First of all, there are two series of WideTouch units: navigation and DMB navigation. DMB is an acronym that stands for Digital Multimedia Broadcasting and serves video content like TV to DMB devices such as Inkel’s WideTouch. Each of the two series has a version with a 5.6″ or a 7.0″ TFT LCD display. These displays are touch-enabled allowing you to navigate through menus without the aid of the navigation button on the right. Of course, as in most displays, fingerprints will be all about the WideTouch and the screen will require a thorough cleaning. I recommend a micro-fibre-like fabric.

The WideTouch can be used to watch movies and it supports DiVX, AVI, and ASF. If you want to get rid of your iPod, you can use this to play MP3s as well. There is also a small PIM application that allow you to record notes. Much like other devices with large screens, the WideTouch has a picture viewing application. This unit has USB connectivity with hosting functions that allow you to attached other USB peripherals such as an external USB drive. If none of these fancy you, you can always play the built-in games: “o-mok”, Go-Stop, Lotto (5.6″) or Othello (7″).

The units are powered by Samsung’s S3C2440 (ARM9) 400MHz processor. The GPS functionality is powered by SiRF III. There are two A/V inputs that allow you to push video to it. You can also connect a FM transmitter to listen to audio via a radio.

The WideTouch comes in six colors and is currently available in South Korea.

Source: Inkel

Apple’s iPod and China’s Foxconn

In light of some heavy news coming out of China’s Foxconn, I would like to voice my opinion of what we, iPod consumers, have been allowing with our dollars. I do not have a single ounce of doubt that Apple knew the working conditions at most Chinese integrators, Foxconn included. In a communist country that puts the liberty of its people at the foot of its leadership, it is no surprise that workers at Foxconn were being mistreated and worked 80 extra hours each month. Our pocketbooks that led to iPod purchases increased the demand for iPods. In turn, Apple pushed Foxconn to manufacture more iPods. For a fixed capital manufacturing firm like Foxconn, where the main competitive strength lay in its cheap labor force, it would be impossible to increase production without adding cost unless you were doing something wrong. Did Apple know exactly what was going on? Probably not. Did Apple know that it was stressing the manufacturing capabilities of Foxconn? Most likely. Foxconn claims that Apple sent a special envoy to investigate conditions at the factories and declared them fine. The special envoy probably received some special treatment with beautiful Chinese women, delicious Chinese cuisine, and super-clean factory conditions… for the time they were there. I for one will be selling my iPod. I don’t want to be using a product that resulted from the abuse of Chinese workers, that resulted from a company (Apple) taking advantage of its superior market position. Steve, suck it up and acknowledge that you put pressure on Foxconn to deliver and that you knew that would stress the manufacturing capability and that that would cause some stress in the supply stream.

Source: SiliconValley.com

Sony Looking for Additional LCD TV Panel Supplier

HD Beat: Sony is betting large on LCD TVs. The company has one of the well-known brands and sub-brands in the CE world. BRAVIA, an acronym that stands for Best Resolution Audio Video Integrated Architecture, is the sub-brand that is out-selling many other brands and at very competitive prices. Sony's bet is 6 million LCD TVs by end of March 2007. S-LCD, its joint venture between Samsung, assuming from this announcement, is not able to supply as many panels as Sony wants. You have to understand that Samsung is competing fiercly with Sony in the LCD TV market. Also, there has been speculation that S-LCD, which is 99.99% run by Samsung employees, is supplying Samsung with superior quality panels compared to those sent to Sony. Prior to this announcement by Sony, the company procured smaller-than-32" LCD TV panels from Taiwanese suppliers and used S-LCD panels for 32" and larger models. That is about to change. Back in March, Sony announced that QDI would be supplying Sony. The search for an additional supplier of larger LCD TV panels might be over for Sony. AUO announced that it has landed 32" LCD TV panel orders from Sony with large initial quantities. 32" LCD TVs are the most popular due to pretty good prices of less than $1499 and sometimes less than $999. However, I would stay away from anything that does not have a 1920 x 1080 pixel format. I like future-proofing my $1000+ investments.

Back in mid-May, Sharp announced that it will increase production for 37" and larger LCD TVs from 14% in 2005 to 26% in 2006. Sharp said that it would compete aggressively by lowering prices by 20%-30%. The company also let it be known that it will be tapping AUO and CMO to supply additional LCD TV panels.

I am not too sure if I am thrilled with this announcement by either Sony or Sharp. Do you really want a Taiwan-made LCD in your mult-thousand dollar LCD TV that has a Sony brand? Would I want a Korean-made LCD in a Sony? I'm not too sure. Sure, LPL has one of the world's best displays and they use IPS. Samsung's PVA is nothing to snicker at either. Of course Sony has their TV electronics tinkerers that make pictures on a Sony that much better than most. Just like in automobiles, would I want a Hyundai engine in my BMW? I'm not so sure.