Sony spinoff plans high-end FED monitors for 2009

A company spun off from Sony is developing a line of monitors based on FED (field emission display) technology, which offers faster response times, consumes less power, and produces warmer, more realistic images than is possible with other flat-panel technologies.

Field Emission Technologies plans to ship a line of high-end professional FED video monitors in 2009, said Norihito Nishimoto, a spokesman for the new company. The monitors will be offered in a range of sizes up to 32 inches, he said.

The company showed off several 20-inch FED prototypes at the Ceatec exhibition in Chiba, Japan.

Sony once pinned its hopes for flat-panel televisions on FED technology.

In 2004, Makoto Kogure, then president of Sony’s television group predicted FED televisions were just around the corner.

“Technology-wise, with no business or investment issues, in two years it’s easy [to produce a commercial FED],” said Kogure, who is now Sony’s corporate executive in charge of product quality and safety.

But slow development and advances in other display technologies led Sony to ditch FED technology in favor of LCD and OLED (organic light-emitting display) screens. Sony unveiled the world’s first OLED television this week, an 11-inch model that will go on sale in Japan this December for ¥200,000 (US$1,740.50).

FED technology is similar in some ways to older CRT (cathode ray tube) technology: phosphorous dots are bombarded by streams of electrons that cause the dots to become illuminated. But unlike CRTs, which use electrons beamed from a single source and deflected to cover the entire screen, FED uses an array of emitters directly opposite the color pixels.

In addition to consuming less power and producing better colors than LCDs, FED also supports faster frame rates. At Ceatec, Field Emission Technologies showed off an FED display running at a rate of 240 frames per second — twice the number that can be handled by the latest models in Sony’s Bravia line of LCD televisions.

In December 2006, Sony spun off its FED research group as Field Emission Technologies, and sold a stake to TechGate Investment Inc.’s Technology Carve-Out Fund. The fund now holds 64.5 percent of the company.

Field Emission Technologies claims FED screens can be produced more cheaply than LCDs because they do not require a backlight. In addition, FED screens can use the same driver as an LCD.

The only problem is that Field Emission Technologies does not have a production line for its displays, and startup costs for a line will initially drive up prices, Nishimoto said. He declined to comment on the company’s plans to build a production line.

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