Hi all, This is from today's, 02/08/2006 Wall St Journal

Take care, Jay

Flexible Screens to Light Up Market

Demand for Thin Displays
Seen as Huge as Philips Unit
Prepares for a 2007 Launch
February 9, 2006

Decades after electrical engineers conceived of creating flexible computer screens and years after they actually began work on them, the first such device might finally reach the mass market.

The technology will allow cellphones and other mobile devices to accommodate screens as wide as five inches when fully opened. When not in use, the flexible screens can roll up inside the devices, making them less bulky to carry.

Made of circuits printed on thin pieces of plastic, the new screens are energy efficient and light enough to be used in global-positioning-system navigation devices, mobile telephones and electronic books, according to Karl McGoldrick, chief executive of Polymer Vision, a unit of Philips Electronics NV of the Netherlands. He says the technology will be on the market during the first half of 2007.

The new screens will have limitations, such as being available initially in black and white only and not being able to show video. But proponents say the screens could eventually change the way people use hand-held computers, cellphones and other consumer-electronics devices by providing larger screens within a pocket-size shape.

Polymer Vision isn't the only company working on flexible screens. Xerox Corp. continues to develop and license a display technology the company thinks could be used for signs with flexible shapes displayed in retail stores.

Polymer Vision says it is trying to interest outside manufacturers in producing the new screens. In the past 12 months, phone makers, computer manufacturers and Internet companies have inquired about the technology, Mr. McGoldrick says. He declines to name the companies, but he says product announcements are expected beginning in March.

The potential market that could use flexible screens is huge. By 2010, more than one billion mobile phones will be sold annually, and an increasing number of them will be so-called smart phones that can take advantage of larger screens. The content displayed on these mobile phones promises to be lucrative: The market for mobile games alone could total $11 billion by 2010, according to research company Informa Telecoms & Media.

"In concept, it's a fascinating idea, and one that has a lot of merit," says Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies Inc., a Campbell, Calif., consultancy. But "it has a lot of challenges."

Among them will be cost. "I think it's awhile before it will be ready for the market" at an attractive price, according to Roger Kay, founder of Endpoint Technologies Associates Inc., a research company.

Polymer Vision declined to provide specific prices for the screens, but it says the price for the five-inch display will be comparable to that of the liquid-crystal displays used in today's cellphones and hand-held computers.

Improvements in flexible screens are expected to come rapidly. A prototype made for last month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was noticeably better than screens produced in September, making reading easier than earlier black-and-white versions. Mr. McGoldrick says he expects to have a sample color product in 2007 and deliver it to market in 2008.

Although Polymer Vision will start with a five-inch model, a seven-inch model is under development. Mr. McGoldrick says he anticipates the seven-inch screen will be the optimal size for the mainstream market. It is the "sweet spot," he says. "It still fits in your shirt pocket."

Early adopters of such technology may, indeed, find the new design hard to resist. "It is one of the coolest products I saw at CES," says Mr. Bajarin, the consultant.