Highly Acclaimed in 2019, but Didn’t Happen
January 10, 2020
Figure 1: LG’s Rollable TV
January 10, 2020
- LG ROLLABLE OLED TV -- Originally announced at CES 2018, LG’s stunning rollable OLED TV was promised to ship sometime in 2019, at the very least for South Korean customers. That never happened. Instead, the product’s global launch was pushed back to 2020 while LG said it was aiming for a late-2019 launch in Korea. Then at IFA, LG said it may not arrive outside Korea until 2021. They haven’t committed to a price or what size options it will come in. It’s still not available for sale even in Korea. LG showed off at CES next week: an all-new rollable display that falls from the ceiling like a projector instead of rising up out of a TV stand on the floor. At CES, they showed a top down version.
Figure 1: LG’s Rollable TV
Source: Online News Verge
- MICROLED TVS (AKA SAMSUNG’S “THE WALL”) -- Samsung Visual has been pushing MicroLED display technology for years now, starting with “The Wall,” an eye-popping modular 146-inch 8K screen introduced at CES in 2018 that was composed of a series of bezel-less PCBs that could be plugged into one another like Lego.
Figure 2: Samsung’s The Wall
Samsung actually went through with commercializing The Wall. After introducing a smaller 75-inch version of its MicroLED display, this time in 4K and not 8K, that it would start shipping an even larger option you can actually buy. Called the Wall Luxury, this 219-inch 6K or 292-inch 8K MicroLED display is available as a series of modules you have installed as one single unit. It is also available in a 73-inch 2K model (composed of four modules) or the 146-inch 4K model (composed of 16 modules). But , meaning the price is $500,000 for the 292-inch version. Of course, to actually acquire any of these, Samsung must be called directly. It’s still not a MicroLED given the 30x50um LEDs and doesn’t fit the consumer model but it’s a good start. Showed up big at CES along with a number of competitors
- In October, we noted that the construction and opening of Sharp’s Gen 10.5 LCD fab in Guangzhou, China had been officially postponed from September to April 2020 (6 months), and that the fab’s owners, Hon Hai/Foxconn had been contemplating the sale of the facility before it was completed due to over-capacity and the resultant falling panel prices. It seems that with one month of TV panel price stability that things might have changed in the mind of Sharp’s owners. Foxconn was also withholding payment to suppliers as the prospects for the fab became less clear. Approximately 60% of the total purchase amount of the project had been paid to suppliers, leaving 40% of plant related orders unpaid. Of that unpaid 40%, 40% was due to Japanese manufacturers (16% of total project) who renegotiated terms with the company and ~$274m US was owed to Taiwanese suppliers, to be paid “in the future”. Sakai Display Products, the actual Foxconn subsidiary running the project originally offered to pay between 88% and 94% of the amount owed to Taiwanese suppliers, but the offer was rejected, and industry groups negotiated a more equitable settlement. Foxconn is now willing to pay suppliers, and those working under a LOC who have already delivered the equipment, are quite relieved given the indirect nature of the payments, although some are still in negotiations with Foxconn. The equipment delivered but not installed is now being set-up and tested, which is an indicator that those working under other contract types will be paid once the fab goes into production. A number of South Korean suppliers were also on the ‘to be paid’ list, such as Top Engineering working under a ~$5.2m US contract, and SFA Engineering whose contract was for ~$216m, have or are near being paid, while others, such as DIT have been paid all but small balances. The fab’s capacity will be 90,000 sheets when fully built out, with Phase 1 at 45,000, and when fully completed would be Sharp’s largest fab in terms of square meters of capacity. Hopefully, TV panel prices will stabilize early in 2020, which was expected in 2019, but did not happen.
- Japan Display, which expected to negotiated a refinancing commitment with a Chinese funding source is now in talks with Apple and Sharp to sell its main Hakusan factory in Ishikawa Prefecture, multiple sources told Nikkei. The company hopes sale of the plant will help its turnaround efforts. Apple and Sharp are still considering how to share stakes in the facility. JDI said in a statement on Friday that the company is "considering a wide range of options" regarding the Hakusan factory. On Dec. 12, JDI announced that it was in the final stage of talks with a potential buyer -- likely Apple -- of equipment at the Hakusan plant for about $200 million. It now appears that the scope of the talks has shifted to sale of the entire facility, including land and buildings. JDI is negotiating with Apple to sell the factory for 80 billion to 90 billion yen ($730 million to $820 million). The plant is one of JDI's biggest factories. Apple paid nearly half the plant's 170-billion-yen construction cost in advance. While Apple has not commented, Sharp was said to be considering the purchase of the Hakusan plant after a request from a client (undisclosed), whom we assume to be Apple. Sharp’s statement was “We are carefully considering it, reviewing the impact that any purchase would have on our earnings, and whether and how much risk it would entail.” As Apple is still owed ‾$800m of the aforementioned pre-payment by JDI, the assumption would be that if Sharp, who is also an Apple supplier, were to purchase the plant, Apple would at least be paid the balance due by JDI, would be a possible shareholder with Sharp, or Sharp would take on JDI’s debt to Apple, which would be paid back as credits against future purchases. But there is one more issue that could be attached to such a purchase, and that would be the effect on Hon Hai’s commitment to build a display fab in Wisconsin, a commitment it has been a bit slow on meeting. The project, with construction moving at a snail’s pace, is now mired in a disagreement between the company and the State of Wisconsin administration, which has asked Foxconn to amend its contract with the state and local authorities, as it has both changed its plans (originally stated as a Gen 10.5 LCD fab) and is being run by Foxconn subsidiary Industrial Internet, that was not a signer on the original deal. Until a new agreement is signed, the State is withholding Hon Hai’s tax credits for this year. As the company was unable to meet its hiring goals in 2018, it did not receive the tax incentives scheduled for last year. If Sharp were to buy the JDI fab, it could easily change Hon Hai’s plans for the Wisconsin site, adding additional confusion to what is already a complicated situation that has been a sore spot for the Trump administration after touting the project as a major job source for the region in June of 2018. With Hon Hai owning all of Sharp’s display assets, all of Innolux’s display assets, and possible a piece of JDI’s 6th Gen display assets, why would they need more display capacity.
- The business of augmented reality 2019 was defined as much by epic failures of AR startups as it was by the promising developments that propelled the industry forward into 2020. On the dark side of the spectrum, the failures of Meta Company, ODG, and Daqri earlier in the year were bookended by the fraying of Magic Leap's financial foundation towards the end of the year. In between, Magic Leap accused one of the rising stars of the industry, Nreal, of stealing trade secrets. But Microsoft set a new standard with the introduction of the best AR headset, the HoloLens 2, while Snap launched its precursor to AR smartglasses in Spectacles 3, Apple prepared to ship new AR devices in 2020, and Vuzix unveiled a new fashion-forward design of smartglasses.
- Meta Company Folds -- the makers of the Meta 2 augmented reality headset, was forced to furlough the majority of its staff after failing to secure a new $20 million funding round from investors. On Jan. 9, a filing with a Delaware court inadvertently revealed that Meta is insolvent, and is, for all intents and purposes, finished.
- ODG Stripped for Parts -- While the story of augmented reality headset maker Osterhout Design Group has come to an end, the epilogue of its demise continues. After ODG's intellectual property, including patents and trademarks, went up for sale via Hilco Bankstream last month, Heritage Global Partners is handling the auction of ODG's physical assets.
- The long guarded veil of mystery surrounding Magic Leap for years was finally lifted last year when the company revealed its Magic Leap One device. But even now, as the company releases new apps and high profile partnerships, the company itself remains something of an enigma. Magic Leap Puts Up Patents as Loan Collateral, Execs Depart Is the augmented reality magic fading down in Plantation, Florida? That's the first question some may be asking following a casual revelation over the weekend that Magic Leap, the maker of the Magic Leap One, has assigned much of its patent portfolio over to JP Morgan Chase as collateral. In documents filed with the US patent office on August 22 and signed on August 20, a massive 1,903 patents from Magic Leap (as well as from Magic Leap holdings Mentor Acquisitions, LLC and Molecular Imprints Inc.) were all assigned to JPMorgan Chase.
- Daqri Shuts Down -- While in hot in pursuit of mainstream smartglasses for consumers, another early maker of enterprise-focused AR hardware has apparently met its end. Following the fate of ODG and Meta Company, augmented reality hardware maker Daqri has apparently run out of runway and is shutting down. Word around the AR insider campfire is that the company is in the process of selling off its assets after closing its main office and eliminating most of its jobs.
- Nreal Founder Chi Xu Accused of Trade Secret Theft by Magic Leap. Chi Xu, the CEO and founder of Nreal, previously worked at Magic Leap as a software engineer. Magic Leap has pointed its legal arsenal at Xu and his company, it looks like at least some of the unanswered questions about Nreal will be answered in court.
- On Nov. 7, Microsoft began the next phase of its immersive computing journey by officially opening sales to the general public for the HoloLens 2.
- Snap Launched Proto-AR Smartglasses with Spectacles 3 -- On Aug. 13, the company unveiled Spectacles 3, which packs a pair of temple-mounted cameras that can capture 3D images and video, along with an array of four microphones for capturing audio and LED lights to serve as indicators that recording is underway.
- Vuzix Taking Style Cues from North with New Smartglasses Design that look normal considering that they contain components for viewing virtual content. The only telltale signs of embedded tech are the slightly thicker than normal arms on the frames (which serve touch interfaces), which will likely be unnoticeable by all but the most studied follower of cutting-edge AR wearables.