An interesting bit of scuttlebutt from Australian news site Smarthouse’s David Richards says Apple (s aapl) is close to launching a touchscreen “netbook type” computer according to new sources in Asia, which is a pretty widely-disseminated rumor this week. But what I hadn’t got wind of before is Richards’ report that Apple has been exploring the use of flexible OLED (Organic light-emitting diode) display technology for both screens and keyboards.
Richards says “insiders” have told SmartHouse that Apple is using a new version of their operating system software that incorporates a synergy of iPhone and MacBook capabilities, and that the fruit company has also recently been in discussions with Sony (s SNE) about licensing OLED technology into notebooks.
If this information is accurate, it puts wind under the wings of the school of thought that the new hardware from Apple, whatever it turns out to be, will be more along the lines of a laptop than an iPod touch on steroids, although not necessarily a laptop as we conventionally know them.
While Steve Jobs and Apple have been famously resistant to and haughtily dismissive of the netbook phenomenon, Richards says that sources have told SmartHouse that Apple had a change of mind after they were able to improve the capability of their touchscreen software and because they had been able to get new patents that allows them to deliver new features to a — taaa daaa! — “small notebook.”
As for OLED’s, if you’re not familiar, the technology has been touted as a coming “next big thing” in laptop computer development since at least 2000, which is when I first researched the topic and wrote about it.
Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology screens emit light directly and, consequently, the LED or CCFL backlighting required by conventional liquid crystal displays (LCDs) can be eliminated, which reduces bulk and power consumption. Active-matrix OLED screens also offer a wider viewing angle than LCDs, so they can be seen clearly from the side, and they have a much faster response time than LCDs as well.
OLEDs use thin sheets of film coated with a highly fluorescent material that emit light when electrical current is applied. This electroluminescent film is much easier to produce than liquid-crystal screens, and illuminates the screen much more efficiently than do backlit LCDs, which use an array of polarizers and color filters.
OLED technology could theoretically enable fabrication of display screens 1,000 times thinner than a human hair (that should appeal to Apple!) using organic light-emitting diodes that can be printed on a sheet of plastic. Theoretically they should be cheaper to manufacture — costing only an estimated 60 percent as much as LCDs to produce.
Sounds exciting, if that’s what’s really in the works.