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Philips shuts microdisplay business

15 Oct 2004

The Dutch firm decides to stop production of TVs based on Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCOS) technology.

Philips, the Dutch electronics giant, is closing its Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCOS) display business just 12 months after it invested EURO 20 million on a new production facility in Böblingen, Germany.

LCOS technology is touted as a promising engine for future rear-projection televisions (RPTVs). It uses a liquid-crystal microdisplay (about a 1 inch in size) to generate an image which is then projected onto the TV screen. Already companies such as Sanyo and Kolin are offering large, 50-inch+, high-definition TVs based on LCOS engines.

According to Insight Media, a market analyst firm in the display sector, Philips' thinking behind the closure is that it has too small a share of the RPTV market to merit any further investment. Insight says that around 200 jobs will be affected in Philips' operations in Belgium (Brussels), Germany (Böblingen), US (Briarcliff Manor) and Austria (Vienna).

"Philips' withdrawal from the LCOS-RPTV arena follows its exit from LCD projector manufacture earlier in the year," said Insight in its latest newsletter. "Here again, the company felt it did not have the market scale to compete effectively in a crowded field."

The demise of the Philips business comes as venture capitalists are busy pumping money into new LCOS microdisplay makers. Last month we stated that CRLO Displays of Scotland has just received $19 million in financing (Business Briefs 24 Sept. 2004) and a new Belgian spin-off called Gemidis was formally announced on Tuesday.

The latter is an initiative from Ghent University and IMEC, the country's national microelectronics center. It is targeting the RPTV market and claims that it will have a 1080i LCOS microdisplays ready by Spring 2005 and be able to offer a production volume of 5000 engines per month. It has financial backing from GIMV, Fagus and Baekeland-fonds.

Oliver Graydon is editor of Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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