Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO) posted second quarter results that were better-than-expected. Better-than-expected, but the expectations were quite low: CMO posted a net loss of NT$8.84 billion (about US$269 million). Expectations were a net loss of NT$11.67 billion. CMO also shared an upbeat outlook further supporting a future recovery for LCD manufacturers.
Optimistic But a future recovery means that LCD manufacturers become optimistic. Optimistic LCD manufacturers in turn begin to boost existing capacity and increase capital spending toward building more capacity. If too many LCD manufacturers move too aggressively there is the risk of oversupply. Samsung, LG Display, AU Optronics (AUO) have all announced plans to boost capital expenditure. An oversupply will certainly lead to another round of LCD panel price erosion causing profits at LCD manufacturers to decline.
Shortage What is making LCD manufacturers optimistic about the future? A shortage of certain LCD panels that have led to increased prices is one answer. The shortage has given LCD manufacturers reason to increase utilization rates from sub-50-percent to normal levels at around high-80-percent. The shortage mainly comes from a government-backed program in China that has boosted LCD TV purchases. However, overall consumer spending in the US and in Western Europe have been depressed. The US and Western Europe compose roughly 60-percent of the overall LCD TV market. Surprisingly, retail sales of LCD TVs in the US have been strong according to market research company NPD despite weak reporting from CostCo and Wal-mart, two major retailers that I think have taken market share of LCD TV sales away from traditional retailers like Best Buy.
Supply Chain Because of a long supply chain for LCD TVs the best quarter for LCD manufacturers are in the third quarter. Most LCD panels have to be shipped in that time period to make it to integrators in China and elsewhere for import into the US, distributed and put on shelves. The LCD panels shipped in the fourth quarter for integration into LCD TVs are geared for sale in the first quarter of the next year; panel sales are usually not very good in the last quarter.
Fourth Quarter With utilization rates and capital expenditures increasing, it is likely that LCD panel prices will start declining rapidly in the fourth quarter when demand is relatively low. Most analysts as well as CMO expects LCD panel prices to continue increasing in the third quarter. What that means to the end consumer that purchases LCD TVs is that those LCD TVs won’t be much cheaper than what you see on the shelves today.
Demand Most US consumers are cash-strapped. The best way to pry money out of them is with a fantastic bargain but if that doesn’t materialize this Christmas season I think retailers will be stuck with a large inventory that will be shipped back to the brands. The brands will therefore curtail LCD panel purchases that will have a major impact on LCD manufacturers that have built up a collosus amount of additional capacity. Speaking again of capacity, CMO plans to increase its sixth-generation monthly capacity from a current 90,000 glass substrates to 120,000. LG Display and Samsung will increase capacity too.
The monitor you see is HP‘s new 27-inch Full HD LCD monitor, the 2709m. Here are the specs:
- Size: 27-inch
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Resolution: 1920 x 1080
- Response Time: 3ms (Gray to Gray)
- Brightness: 400 cd/m2
- Contrast Ratio: 1000:1 (static), 30,000:1 (dynamic)
- Color Gamut: 92% NTSC
- Connectivity: VGA, DVI-D with HDCP, HDMI with HDCP (2)
- Adjustability: Swivel, Tilt
- Power Consumption: 46W (max), <2 (sleep)
- Availability: Now in the US
- Price: US$499.99
High-End Features Probably due to the large size this 27-inch LCD monitor from HP cannot be rotated but the 2709m has a lot of high-end features. Let’s start off with contrast ratio. The 30,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio? That’s just HP blowing smoke. But the 1000:1 static (or native) contrast ratio is solid. The 3ms Gray To Gray (GTG) response time is plenty fast (pretty good for gaming) and the 92-percent NTSC color gamut should provide some very nice colors. Brightness of 400 cd/m2 is on the high side and should be plenty enough to use the 27-inch monster as a TV from a bit farther back. There are two HDMI connections, a DVD connection and a VGA connection so you can hook up to four video source devices to this 27-incher.
High Price The US$499.99 is twice the price of the 23-inch w2338h (here’s my writeup on the w2338h). Both have the same resolution: 1920 x 1080. If you absolutely need to spend $500 on a monitor purchase, I would recommend getting two w2338h monitors. Make sure you have the graphics card to drive two monitors.
This is an official shot of LG‘s New Chocolate (BL40). As you can see it has a 5.0 megapixel digital camera with what seems like a dedicated button for taking snaps in landscape format. The camera is coupled with a flash, which I would guess is of the xenon variety. The slightly titled and 3D icons look pretty nice and is a welcome change from the 2D flat icons that Apple got started with the iPhone. On the front there are at least three sensors: a proximity sensor is probably one of them, an ambient light sensor would be another. I’m not sure of the last one.
Do you use Zinio? If not, you should. Zinio is software that allows you to read magazines on your computer display. If you have a high-enough resolution monitor the experience of reading a magazine using Zinio is pretty darn amazing. There are many cool features but I’ll touch on just a few.
Staples Do you get frustrated when a nice 2-page picture spread is mired by those three staples right in the middle? With Zinio, as you might have guessed already, the 2-page or even a 3-page spread looks wonderful with no staples.
Hyperlinks Most of the time I read my favorite magazines cover to cover. But from time to time I like to get to the cover story. With some magazines ads make up a good portion and finding the page numbers can get tedious. With Zinio simply go to the table of contents and click on the cover story and it flips (there is animation) that gets you there in no time.
Zoom Some of you might not have perfect vision. Heck, without my glasses I’m as good as blind! So you’ll be glad to know there is a zoom feature that makes tiny text very large and very readable.
If you haven’t already, check out Zinio, I think you’ll like it.
Hardware Now, with all that said, let’s get to the subject matter: Zinio hardware. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a electronic reader that has full color, touchable, is fast and works like Zinio does?
Black and White Amazon’s Kindle is nice, but it is black and white. Even textbooks have moved on to color. Ditto newspapers (some, not all). And forget about trying to enjoy a magazine on your Kindle. Let’s demand that our displays be in color since most of us are designed to see in color.
Resolution What’s the resolution on the Kindle? Whatever it is it isn’t enough. I would like to have resolution increase quite a bit so fonts are smooth–like the ones you see on magazines and newspapers–even when zoomed in. The increase in resolution wouldn’t make only fonts look better it will make images and pictures look a whole lot better too.
Anyone know if someone is working on something like this?
100-percent According to DisplaySearch, 52-percent of notebook PCs in 2009 will sport a LED backlight. That number will hit 100-percent in 2012. This is good news for companies involved in the LED backlight supply chain and bad news for companies still trying to make a buck with CCFL backlights. But not really.
1-percent That’s the percent of LCD monitors that sport a LED backlight in 2009. It doesn’t really get better by 2012: just 15-percent. To get passed the 50-percent mark you and I will need to wait until 2015, that’s 6 years from now, according to DisplaySearch. So CCFL backlight companies still have a huge market to serve for quite some time.
3-percent Even with Samsung’s confusing “LED TV” marketing (and associated strong sales) DisplaySearch is stating that LCD TVs that sport LED backlights will be just 3-percent in 2009. By 2012 that will grow to 32-percent. The 50-percent mark? In 2014. Quite a ways from now.
LED backlight technology is certainly growing and will completely take over the notebook PC market by 2012. But, CCFL backlight technology isn’t going away any time soon since the great majority of LCD monitors and LCD TVs will feature CCFL backlights for many years.
Sonos has a new and improved controller: the CR200. The 3.5-inch LCD on the CR200 boasts an impressive resolution of 640 x 480 (landscape). I’m not sure if the CR200 has an accelerometer so I’m guessing you can only use it in portrait mode. Back to the resolution: it is twice that of the iPhone/iPod touch, which sports a 3.5-inch LCD with a resolution of just 480 x 320 (landscape). The touch technology on the CR200 is capacitive so it should respond quite well to your touches.
For the price of US$349 that includes the charging cradle that used to cost an extra $40 the CR200 is much more affordable than the CR100 ($399) replaces. The CR200 is eminently more portable too. But I hear there is a Sonos app for the iPhone and iPod touch that basically does the same thing as the CR200. The only difference in terms of technical capability is the CR200 can make use of the Sonos mesh wireless network. Engadget has a review that might help in making a decision whether or not to upgrade to the CR200.
Big But Poor I flew economy on Singapore Airlines, one of my favorite airlines, from SFO to ICN (Inchon, South Korea) and was pleasantly surprised to see that the LCD was rather large. I think it is about 10-inches. The last time I flew Singapore about 2 years ago the screens were 7-inches and the quality was quite poor. Unfortunately the 10-inch LCD was most likely a TN variety and exhibited extremely poor viewing angles. Although I was able to easily adjust the vertical angle by pulling the bottom portion of the LCD the viewing angles were quite poor. Colors were less than excellent too. Of course, Singapore Airlines need to watch its cost while providing acceptable technology but as a display guy I was disappointed. Despite the poor LCD quality I was able to enjoy four movies: Watchmen, The International, The Illusionist, and Duplicity.
Cover Plastic One more thing before I sign off and explore Seoul a bit. We landed at ICN on Tuesday and as I was walking through the business and first class sections, I noticed two things. One, the size of the LCD grew. I believe business class is 15.4-inches and first class is around 22-inches. But the problem was that the cover glass used weren’t glass at all–it was plastic. And because of that there were scratched on them that made them look cheap.
Quality So here is what I recommend: spend a bit more money and upgrade the plastic cover glass to real glass. Don’t worry; real glass won’t break easily. But it will add some weight, something airlines will need to be sensitive to. Second, I’m sure all LCDs on the plane were of the TN variety resulting in less-than-ideal viewing experiences. If you want customers to oooh and aaaah, have a look at IPS, PVA, MVA, or ASV LCD panels by LG Display, Samsung, AU Optronics/Chi Mei Optoelectronics or Sharp, respectively. If you work for Singapore Airlines and would like more help, please feel free to contact me.
Gigabyte TouchNote Specifications
Display: 10.1-inch Touch TFT LCD
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Pixel Format: 1366 x 768
Webcam: 1.3 megapixel
CPU: 1.66GHz Atom N280
HDD: 2.5″ 9.5mm 160GB 5400RPM SATA
Connectivity: VGA, Ethernet, ExpressCard, 4-in-1 Multicard Reader, Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, WiFi
Other: Multitouch Mousepad, Windows XP Home
Price: US$599 on Amazon.com
A netbook tablet PC (or convertible netbook) sounds like an ideal ebook reader, note-taking device and if the graphics can handle it (as well as the battery) a portable TV/movie viewer. Gigabyte’s TouchNote comes with Windows XP Home and it should be brisk enough for most of these tasks. The surprise is the diminutive 10.1-inch but with a 1366 x 768 resolution–plenty of pixels for your viewing pleasure, though the TN LCD technology brings down the pleasure notch a bit. The US$599 asking price is a bit on the high side but if tablet functionality is important to you in a netbook, it would be difficult to find a cheaper one.
AU Optronics (AUO) and Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO) received a Statement of Objections from the EU Commission regarding a price-fixing cartel of several LCD panel makers. AUO announced that it will reply after closely reviewing the document while CMO stated that the company will fully cooperate with the EU Commission’s investigation.
LG Display, Sharp, Chunghwa Picture Tubes (CPT) plead guilty to price fixing charges made by the US District Court in San Francisco in 2008 and paid a fine totaling US$585 million. Hitachi Display also paid a US$31 million fine in March 2009 after pleading guilty.
A fine of several hundreds of millions of dollars for AUO and CMO will have a significant impact on their bottom line. The EU investigation has come at a critical juncture as LCD manufacturers are just turning the corner toward profits. It is interesting that Samsung, the largest LCD manufacturer in the world, has not been charged yet.
Ah, so this is what the real thing looks like: LG‘s Black Label BL-40. Some say it is LG’s next Chocolate phone. The unique feature of the BL-40 is the 21:9 ultrawide aspect ratio with a 800 x 345 resolution (landscape). The UI seems to be LG’s S-Class with a 5 megapixel camera coupled with a Schneider Kreuznach lens. There is also WiFi and a FM transmitter so you can listen to your music in your car via FM radio. I hope there’s a decently-powered media player that can playback ripped DVDs as the resolution is almost perfect for it. What I am curious about is whether or not the average user with average-sized hands can thumb-type in landscape mode with its ultrawide stance.