Sony’s announcement today that it’s developed a thin OLED display flexible enough to roll around a pencil (or any other 4 mm object) got me thinking about screens. The screen is quite literally our window to the web for computers, mobile phones, tablets and whatever other device we may have in our pockets, and anyone who walks outside with a Nexus One will quickly tell you that having a fast phone with neat apps doesn’t help when it’s a sunny day and your OLED touchscreen is subsequently so washed out that you can’t see anything.
Flexible screens are pretty cool, as are those you can see in the daylight. But when considering the use cases for mobile phones, laptops, e-readers or tablets, what screen functionality do we need? When it comes to e-readers in particular, some argue that screens that don’t emit a lot of light make reading more comfortable. But then again, e-Ink devices like the Kindle don’t have color, which most people consider pretty darn essential. Humans, barring an accident, disease or genetic defect, are visual creatures, and so as we take computing on the go and embed both connectivity and electronics into our tasks, the right screen is essential.
As I’ve noted previously, a greater emphasis on screen technology (and size) may change the dynamics in the semiconductor industry, in that beauty (nice screens) could soon cost twice as much as the brains (fast processors). But as Sony offers us an opportunity to add flexibility to our displays, the issue of figuring out what devices need in a display becomes that much more difficult. We may have a one-size-fits- all devices, but will we ever make a one-size-fits-all screen? Readers, is a single screen (or device) really appropriate for our needs? If so, what features should that display have?
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