OLED TVs are undoubtedly the future of TV technology—they're thin, contain minimal parts, and use up to 50% less energy than LCD TVs (and significantly less than plasma, which uses as much energy as a large refrigerator). The only problem has been size, the technology for manufacturing OLED is difficult to scale for large screen sizes. But Panasonic executives hinted yesterday that it will have a 37-inch OLED TV ready for production in 18 months to a year. The screens, fashioned out of a metal membrane inside a panel, will have a battery life of 50,000 hours. In comparison, current Panasonic plasma models have a lifespan of 60,000 hours.
Details on Panasonic's OLED screens are scant, but other companies are also working on bringing OLED TVs to market. Samsung plans on releasing a 23-inch model next year and Sony unveiled 21-inch OLED TV at this month's Japan Display Expo. But the technology doesn't come cheap, so don't expect OLEDs to seriously compete with LCD and plasma TVs in the next few years.
All TVs might have to become more energy-efficient quickly—at least in California—if the state's energy commission gets its way. The Commission wants to set the first mandatory energy limits on TVs in 2011.