In flat panels, big is the word at CeBIT

Flat screens were more in evidence than ever before at this year’s CeBIT trade show, whether as display boards on exhibitors’ stands, on the notebook computers of the hundreds of reporters who crowded the fair’s press center every day, or the route-indicator screens on the trams that took people to the fairground.

Alongside these, exhibitors were showing off new innovations in flat panel display technology and giving visitors a glimpse into the future. Some of the highlights included the largest PDP (plasma display panel) screen yet, new models of LCD (liquid crystal display) monitors from many companies, and demonstrations of a new and very promising flat panel display technology that can make screens even thinner than they are today.

NEC Corp. used the show to unveil its latest PDP, a monster 61-inch model that the hardware vendor hopes will find favor among business and educational users for display purposes. NEC plans to put the unit into mass production from the middle of this year and launch it in the North America and Europe markets.

Not to be outdone, South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Inc. was showing prototypes of its latest screen. At 63 inches diagonal length, it is the largest PDP panel yet produced and looked very impressive although perhaps a little too large for the living room. It too is aimed at the display panel market and has an expected price to match its size of US$25,000.

A little smaller and more suited for home use was a new 37-inch model from Samsung. It is expected to hit the market later this year and will sell for around $7,000. The company also had 42-inch and 50-inch models at $8,000 and $15,000 respectively.

In the LCD monitor world, big was also the keyword. Toshiba Corp. used CeBIT to launch a new monitor with a 20.8-inch screen. Capable of 3,200 by 2,400 pixel QUXGA (Quad Ultra Extended Graphics Array) resolution, the company is targeting the professional market when it begins selling the $3,000 monitor worldwide later this year.

Aiming at the same market, IBM Corp. unveiled a new 22 inch display that, the company said, has the highest resolution yet for an LCD. The screen has 9 million pixels, beating the 7.7 million in Toshiba’s new screen, and IBM said images on the display are as clear as an original photograph.

Towards the consumer end of the market, a number of companies were showing new models or updates of older models. Among them, Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV unveiled an updated range of 15-inch monitors aimed at business users that will be available from April in Europe.

The new Philips displays also boasted a DVI (Digital Video Input) connector in addition to the conventional VGA analog input. DVI compatibility was a big feature on many new monitors from other companies too. ViewSonic Corp. had on show its new VP180m, a successor to the Nokia LCD 800+, with better styling than the previous model and a DVI input.

Sharp Corp. too included a DVI connector on a new 18 inch screen and also built a USB (universal serial bus) hub into new 18- and 20 inch monitors with the idea of increasing convenience of users.

A few years down the road and CeBIT visitors will be seeing new screens based on OELD (organic electroluminescence displays) if Eastman Kodak Co. and Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd. have their way. The two companies are at the forefront of this technology which is tipped to replace TFT (thin film transistor) LCDs because OELDs can be made thinner and use less power while delivering a picture that is as good if not better as a TFT.

Both companies were showing prototypes of the new display technology along with Samsung Electronics, Pioneer Corp. and Taiwan’s Ritek Corp. The latter two companies are already commercially producing OELDs, albeit small monochrome ones.

Sanyo Electric, in Osaka, can be contacted at Kodak, based in Rochester, New York, can be reached at Ritek, in Hsinchu, Taiwan, is at Samsung Electronics, in Seoul, can be contacted at NEC, in Tokyo, can be contacted at Philips in Amsterdam can be reached at