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Motorola Touts New HDTV Technology

Motorola Labs announced today what it called a “breakthrough” in high-definition TV technology, but analysts were more skeptical about its significance.

The research arm of Motorola Inc. has built a 5-inch color video display prototype using its own carbon nanotube (CNT) technology. The company said CNT could be used to create higher quality, large, flat panel displays that last longer and cost less than ones on the market today.

Just the Next Step

“I don’t really see Motorola’s NanoEmissive Display (NED) as something radically new. It’s the next piece in a long story,” Kimberly Allen, director of display technology and strategy, iSuppli, told TechNewsWorld. “And Motorola is not even in a position to build the panels.”

Motorola describes NED as “a scalable method of growing CNTs directly on glass to enable an energy efficient design that excels at emitting electrons.” Before, CNTs had to be pasted together into a vertical pattern. NED, Allen said, seems more reliable than the paste method.

The technology is similar to field emission display (FED), which failed because it was very difficult to manufacture, Allen said. The NED method avoids the failure point by using a tip different from the one that created problems for the FED.

“Overall, the CNT method appears to be simpler than making a PDP [plasma display panel] or LCD [liquid crystal display], so it’s possible that these new FEDs could wind up less expensive than other flat-panel options. But that is too speculative at this point for me to make a definite comment about,” Allen said.

Coming Soon

Motorola said it is negotiating with television manufacturers to license the technology, which it said could lead to products on the market in two years, but that is far from a given.

David Mercer, principal analyst, Strategy Analytics, said that NED may be the chosen technology for HDTV, but that Motorola still faces some stumbling blocks.

“NED is clearly one of the contenders for the next generation of large screen HDTV display technologies and we will watch its progress with interest,” he said. “New display technologies generally take some years before they break through to mass market volumes. The challenge for Motorola will be to time NED’s commercial arrival to be competitive in the HDTV market of 2010, not 2005. By this time large screen LCD TVs will be retailing at under $500 and it may be difficult for any alternative technology to offer significant advantages.”

Allen also wondered whether Motorola would be able to capitalize on NED. “The question is, will a partner agree to sign on with them and start working on this? Unclear,” she said.

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