MicroOLED was founded in 2007 - to develop and produce OLED microdisplays. The company had plans to release their first product towards the end of 2009, but these plans were scrapped. Last month the company announced that they are about the ship their first-gen product in 2 months, and already received orders for over 10,000 microdisplays. MicroOLED's first-gen display is a 9.6mm 800x480 (WVGA) OLED microdisplay that uses white SM-OLEDs and RGBB color filters. Power consumption is 25mW for 60Hz video at 150cd/m2.
Eric Marcellin-Dibon, MicroOLED's co-founder, CEO and head of strategy and biz-dev was kind enough to answer a few questions we had. Eric has more than 20 years experience in the field of high technologies and consumer electronics. Previously director of the display strategy and general manager of the strategic sourcing group at Thomson, Eric held several management positions in France, Germany and in the UK.
Q: Eric, you recently announced that you will begin mass production soon. Well done. Can you tell us more about the new product?
A: We announced that we acquired and installed a brand new production line in 2011, but we were already shipping products manufactured on our current pilot line. The new production line enables us to expand our capacity to respond to demands form various market segments.
The first product is a 1.7 mpixel full color microdisplay (WVGA in full color), and we are about to announce a new product, which will be the highest pixel density microdisplay in the world. It will be suited for HMD surgery and other applications, where high resolution and image precision are required.
Q: Your original plan was to start mass production towards the end of 2009. Then you had a delay of two years. Can you tell us what went wrong?
A: Nothing went wrong. Processes needed to be put in place to enable customers to swap competing products with our microdisplays, and, with our previous line, we were somewhat restricted in term of quantities and addressable market segments. With the new line, we are going one step further. We are in a good position, and are building the long term success of the company.
Q: Can you name your OLED material providers?
A: We are using various OLED material manufacturers, but we cannot name them.
Q: Can you tell us the price (this can be approximate) of your product?
A: We have two product families, the 1.7m pixels and the one that will be announced. They have derivatives covering various types of requirements from consumer electronics to Security and Professional.
Q: What is the price premium of an OLED microdisplay compared to an LCD one?
A: The price premium is still significant. Everybody understands it is always challenging to compete with a 20-year old technology such as the LCD. However we are making rapid progress and we reached a point where customers are considering the performances are worth the price premium to switch from LCD to our OLED technology. This is good news and it is accelerating the market.
Q: We know that Photonis Technologies SAS was holding 51% in MicroOLED, but these shares were bought back in July. 5. Will they be your first defense customer?
A: Photonis Technologies will surely be one of our Defense customers. They have a very good understanding of the defense market, and its future development. We already have a few customers in the defense area integrating our products, and Photonis Technologies will be among those.
Q: Can you give more info about the 'sport optics' products you mentioned in your PR?
A: Binoculars or spotting scopes for birding and outdoor have always been based on see-through optics. Now if you can provide a high quality electronic viewfinder based on an OLED microdisplay, this enables new product features such as dawn vision, or recording, or displaying some useful information in your sight. With the growing interest in nature observation, we believe this market will expand.
Key differences with the competition are:
- An overall better picture quality
- Higher contrast ratio
- A pixel density two to three times higher
- A very good uniformity, no fixed pattern neither long range or color non-uniformity
- A lower power consumption
Q: Sony and eMagin are already producing higher resolution microdisplays (even HD ones). Do you think there's still a market for WVGA resolution displays?
A: Actually we are looking at the number of independent pixels, and our 0.38" 1.7m pixels microdisplay has more pixels than a SVGA and in addition it is more compact. Our customers constantly remark upon the benefit of this high pixel density because the results are very visible. Some are even using our 1.7m pixel microdisplay as a reference in resolution and have begun choosing it over a competing XGA OLED microdisplay. This is due to the fact that we have very fine pixels. We are very happy about the quality of the feedback we've been receiving, which provides strong indication that this product will be around for a long time. We expect to take the lead with the new microdisplay we will be announcing.
Q: Where do you see the OLED microdisplay market in 5 years?
A: The OLED microdisplay market is driven by two key factors:
- The OLED microdisplay technology is rapidly gaining a larger share in various market segments over LCD or LCoS. The security market has been adopting this technology because of wide temperature range and better contrast, and now even the digital camera market is moving to this technology because of the better picture quality.
- More and more systems are integrating electronic viewfinders.
Q: And what part will MicroOLED take?
A: The feedback of all of our customers and prospects has been very good. They love the picture quality, the natural feel and look of the picture due to the high resolution, the very high contrast, and also the low power consumption. These two features, the picture quality and the low power consumption, are key for all their mobile applications from consumer to professional. So we believe we will gain more traction in the market. In addition, we believe in picture quality and this is driving us to design new products with outstanding performance. Our goal is to change the paradigm of the near-to-eye products.
Thanks Eric, and good luck to both you and MicroOLED!