Samsung Transparent LCD Interview with Scott Birmbaum VP LCD Unit



Years ago I did an interview with Scott Birmbaum currently Samsung Vice President, Creator of the Future, then VP of The LCD Business. We had a fascinating conversation on the future of displays. Many of the ideas are now in the marketplace and I thought it would be great to look back at our conversation.

With a lot of volatility in the LCD business including a 6% year over year drop in U.S. LCD sales (probably due to a lack of credit, housing related, etc.). New technology has to emerge to spark interest a generate business. There also has to be more business to business related applications. Both of these perspectives were addressed with our time with VP of the Samsung LCD, Scott Birnbaum. He amazed me with Samsung’s transparent LCD unit which should debut some time in the first quarter this year. We also spike about other happenings in the LCD business 3D, even LCD’s on vending machines our fascinating conversation follows.
…with no direct backlight so it’s actually a transparent display. This is actually going to open up a lot of new applications for a display technology. Today when you use an LCD it’s actually used in a device because you have a backlight and it’s a finished product so you’ll see it inside of a tablet or you’ll see it inside of a notebook computer or a television set. But with this technology it actually can blend into the environment. So it actually is transparent. So the demo that we’re showing here you could actually see the bottle behind here, the grapes behind there and you see a flat panel. The difference is no backlight. We’re using indirect backlighting on this demo so we actually have some lights that are at the top here that light up the display and you’ll see some very vivid colors that come across the screen but it looks fantastic. You can see through it so you don’t need this big display that’s here, you actually have a thin piece of glass that’s just hanging there. You could use it in lots of different applications. In fact, you’ll start to see it in products as soon as 2011.

So what quarter of 2011?

So no official announcements on quarters because we’re working with lots of different companies that have different development schedules and none of them are ready to release that yet.
So now, tell us about Samsung’s vision with LCD’s. Obviously with the smartphones you guys have been providing screens for your own products, for third party products. With desktop LCD’s, you guys have been pretty strong in that arena. So kind of talk about your overall strategy and your positioning in the LCD business.

So Samsung has a very strong position across all the different business segments. So if you look at the panels that are out there today, Samsung is playing in all the key market segments. We have the leadership position in all of those key areas, in fact, we’ve driven a lot of the new innovation so the latest TVs that you’ve seen, the LED TV’s was really driven by Samsung. They were the first to introduce the edge-lit, very thin, ultra-thin panel that drove all of the LED TV’s out there. They were also the first to actually promote the 3D concept in TV on the LED side as well as LCD so they’re driving a lot of new innovation. The kind of next wave that we’re seeing are things like this transparent LCD. We’re also seeing LCD’s that are being used in applications that you traditionally wouldn’t see in LCD. So a great example of that is on the front of a vending machine so we’re working with Coca-Cola and with Kraft and we’re rolling out new vending machines that actually have a 46-inch touchscreen on the front. It can actually give you all of the information about the products that are inside. You can learn about nutritional facts. You can get the calorie information and you can make smarter choices as a consumer as you’re buying these products but also also it gives the brands the ability to actually advertise on those screens since you have this full 46-inch screen you could actually have the ability to have Mr. Peanut, for example, wave you over and tell you to go buy their product and since there’s four million vending machines around the world today, think about the ability to network those and build a global media network. It’s gonna give brands that are not only used inside the machine but brands that want to be on that global network the ability to have this global reach that no other media network has.

So obviously, talk about your 3D strategy actually from your perspective.
So 3D is very exciting for the consumer. It’s actually the first big change that you see in the TV space beside the advent of HD. So when HD came out it changed the whole game. It really changed then how people viewed sports. It changed then how they viewed movies. It changed the games that they played. It actually changed the format of the components and the products that they bought to work with that. 3D is gonna do the same thing. So now you have a new eco system that’s developing with things like 3D Blu-ray players. You have home theater systems and you have these new ultra-thin, 3D LED TV’s that are actually giving consumers a new reason to buy a new television set. It’s a very exciting space and since Samsung’s actually been driving this at the panel level we actually developed the right panel that actually gives the best 3D experience for the consumer. It really gives them the opportunity to feel like they’re actually in the movie theater. We’re actually taking that even one step further by building larger size screens to give a more immersive experience and beyond that we’re actually looking at things like multi-screens and so instead of having one screen in your home, you could actually tile these together, have multiple screens so you could actually have this as big as your wall itself. So you could have a hundred-inch screen, a two hundred-inch screen, or a hundred-foot screen depending on how big of a room that you have, very exciting. And then beyond that we’re even looking at like ultra definition so you could actually get higher resolutions than you get in today’s 1080p. So a lot of exciting things that are here today and for consumers to look forward to in the future.

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