Hard on the heels of being the first to announce huge revenues from nano products when most everybody else is still in the lab, Samsung is working on commercializing nano-based field emission displays as the first true nano disruptive technology.
How many of you have got a big-screen plasma TV on your holiday shopping list? Well, scratch it and wait till Xmas 2006 and be the first with nano TV, which utilizes carbon nanotubes to shoot electrons at your screen. They will be thinner and lighter than plasma, and even the more expensive ultra-thin LCD displays, and they will cost you less on your electricity bill. Plasma consumes roughly 500 watts; the nano TV will consume only 100 watts.
So what is it that makes Samsung the technology leader in terms of bringing nano to the marketplace?
The secret is the founding of a dedicated research lab to develop tomorrow's technology today. The incoming chairman, Lee Kun Hee, set it up in 1987 with the mantra "change everything except your wife and children." That's the kind of leadership and challenge to a status quo that we look for in our Rule Breakers search. We find it in companies that are generally ahead of the curve, but it is unusual to find it in mega caps like Samsung.
The result of his foresight is that the company is now the world's leading supplier of random access memory chips. In the past two years, it has made huge inroads in the mobile phone industry, climbing from an also-ran to the third spot, behind Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) and Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) . Samsung was first with silver nano particles in your washing machine, and now they're as far ahead in the rec room as they are in the laundry room.
Samsung might not be the investment opportunity we're looking for in Rule Breakers, but it is not developing this TV alone. It is buying the carbon nanotubes from Carbon Nanotechnologies Inc., a private Houston company, which was featured in our last issue of Rule Breakers. Samsung also is developing other nanomaterials for the TV in partnership with Dupont (NYSE: DD ) .
If Samsung can get the economics right and bring the costs below LCD and plasma TVs, we will see a paradigm shift in TV manufacture, a $61 billion worldwide market. The threat was big enough for the Japanese government in 2003 to belatedly set up a $37 million program to crash develop field emission displays.
Motorola also is committed to being first to market and display a prototype, but Samsung is the one to catch.
As consumers, we do not necessarily care who is first, as long as we get better, cheaper, thinner TVs. On the other hand, as Foolish investors over at Rule Breakers, we are looking to get ahead of the curve, we want to see who is developing what in the nano world, and identify the companies that might enrich us. Come over and see us.
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