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LCD screens still dominate electronic gadgets everywhere you look. In the living room, LCDs muscled out plasma screens years ago. In the mobile universe, LCD was always the dominant technology even if Samsung sneaked OLED screens into many of its newer smartphones.
According to the market analysts at IHS iSuppli, that's about to change. “Long considered a nascent technology, AMOLED is coming of age in 2012,” says Vinita Jakhanwal, IHS director of small- and medium-screen research, in a just-released report.
It all starts in the smallish displays found on smartphones and tablets. Jakhanwal sees strong sales of Android-based smartphones with OLED screens, and the leading panel builders are all increasing their manufacturing capacity in order to keep up with demand. Samsung still points most of its output right at the mobile market while LG Display (NYSE: LPL ) aims for big-screen OLED TVs later this year and AU Optronics (NYSE: AUO ) is looking for handset designers with an interest in its OLED panels. So far, IHS thinks the company has found willing partners at HTC and Sony (NYSE: SNE ) .
OLED panels still command a premium price compared to LCD screens of similar sizes and resolutions, but the difference is melting away. At the moment, IHS notes that a tablet screen of the OLED ilk will cost about twice as much as a competing LCD solution. Compare and contrast this to 2007, when an 11-inch OLED TV from Sony cost $1,700, in the ballpark of 50-inch plasma sets of that day and age.
All of this is great news for us shareholders in Universal Display (Nasdaq: PANL ) , which is just about the only pure-play OLED stock on the market. The stock jumped more than 4% on Thursday, at least partly in reaction to the IHS report.
Universal Display is already the second-best performer in my CAPS portfolio, but you ain't seen nothin' yet. This stock will truly come into its own when OLED screens become the norm rather than an odd choice for mobile displays, manufacturing costs come down as the methods mature, and OLED TVs invade our living rooms.
The mobile revolution is making millionaires as we speak. Buying Universal Display is one great way to play that megatrend, but far from the only one.