How Flexible Is Your Future?

Ask a few technology companies for their thoughts on the future and you're likely to get some interesting answers. Most agree that touch, gestures, augmented reality, and speech recognition will play a major part in our future lives, but the divergence is where it gets interesting. Here's one flexible vision of the future from a company most investors have left in the past.

Feeling flexible
Moribund feature-phone-maker Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) seems to have gotten a shot in the arm from its Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) partnership. Its new Windows handsets will be in European hands before the year's end, with an American launch expected early next year. The new Nokia phones look fantastic, but a tech company that stands still is like a motionless shark -- dead in the water. That's why Nokia's been developing some functional (if strange) new ideas. One is a small, flexible tablet that you can interact with by bending and twisting it. If you always wanted to take out some aggression on your electronics without shattering them into shards of silicon, here's your chance.

Take a look at the device in action:

Will it bend?
The tablet's key component is a bendable OLED display. Universal Display (Nasdaq: PANL  ) is a patent leader in the OLED segment, and most of Nokia's current panel suppliers, including AU Optronics (NYSE: AUO  ) and Samsung, already have deals with Universal Display. These partnerships will become increasingly important to Universal Display now that Nokia has mandated all future phones use OLED technology. LG Display (NYSE: LPL  ) , another Universal Display licensee, is also looking to provide panels for Nokia.

Ministry of silly interfaces
The concept might be nice, but there are two glaring flaws. First, who wants to be forced to use two hands to make things happen on their devices? Second, who wants to use a device that requires you to twist, bend, and squeeze to get things done? I don't want to disparage the idea of bendable surfaces -- which could make large displays portable and greatly reduce the likelihood of screen damage -- but an interface built on flexing is incomplete at best. Flex commands might be a great feature for tablet-based games, but I wouldn't want to sort my pictures that way.

Still, this is an interesting step forward in device functionality, and could be a portent for ideas to come. Add these companies to your watchlist to keep an eye on their approach to a more flexible future.

Fool contributor Alex Planes holds no stake in any company mentioned here. Subscribe to him on Facebook, add him on Google+, or follow him on Twitter. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Universal Display and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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