Apple is set to announce its new MacBook Pro lineup towards the end of October. In June we reported of rumors that one of the new features in these new laptops will be an OLED touch bar, a secondary display placed above the keyboard (instead of the function keys). You can see a proposed render (this is not an official photo of course):
Since June, more reports surfaced that confirm the secondary-OLED. It seems that most analyst now agree that the MacBook Pro will indeed come with this interesting OLED strip. A leaked Chassis image from June, which you can see above, supports these rumors. I'm sure Apple will find very nice use cases for such a display on a laptop. It is interesting to try and figure out the effect of Apple's secondary MacBook Pro OLED on the OLED market itself.
First, let's estimate the area of such a display. It seems that the OLED strip will be quite thin. I would estimate about 0.5-inch. The width will depend on the MacBook size - which will probably range from 12-inch to 15-inch. Let's take an average width of 12 inches for the OLED strip. This means that the area is 6 in2. Just to compare, the area of a 5-inch smartphone is about 10.7 in2.
But how many such OLED strips will Apple require? Apple sells around 20 million laptops each year. It is not clear what percentage of these are MacBook Pro laptops - but these are Apple's high end devices which means that the majority of laptops are probably not Pro laptops. If we assume that 25% of Apple's laptops are MacBook Pros, it means that Apple will require around 5 million such OLED strips in a year. And this assumes that all new MacBook Pros will use the OLED strip (it may be present in only part of the new laptops series).
Samsung currently makes around 200 to 300 million smartphone-sized OLEDs each year. So Apple's MacBook Pro OLEDs will only require one percent of SDC's production capacity. This will hardly make any effect on the OLED market. Even if Apple chooses to use a flexible OLED (which may make sense as it is thinner and lighter) - it is still negligible.
The OLED market is set for quick growth, and it is expected that the total OLED capacity will double in a few years as Samsung is increasing capacity and other makers such as LG, BOE, Visionox, EDO and AUO are entering the OLED market as well. This makes Apple's MacBook Pro OLED effect even less exciting.
Of course, Apple's OLED adoption in such will have other implications. The first one will be a big endorsement for OLED technology. But Apple already uses OLEDs in its smartwatches - and when it launched the Watch Series 2 it even admitted and confirmed it uses an OLED display. So this will make people (and investors) in the industry excited for a while - but it's pretty clear that OLED already represents the future of display technology, especially for mobile devices.
Another nice side-effect will be that other laptop makers are bound to copy Apple. There are about 170 million laptops sold each year - so this is a significant market, although it will take a while for other brands to add these displays, and of course it will be a premium option at first. It may be that other laptop brands will choose a different display tech though - for example E Ink displays, like Intel suggests, which may make more sense in some scenarios.
To summarize - it will be great if Apple adopts a secondary OLED. But to have a real effect on the OLED market, we will have to wait for Apple to use OLEDs in its iPhones or tablet. UBI for example sees 518 million flexible OLEDs acquired by Apple for its iPhones by 2021: