The LED and OLED industries certainly have lofty goals. Cree Inc. (Nasdaq: CREE) describes itself as "leading the LED lighting revolution and setting the stage to obsolete the incandescent light bulb through the use of energy-efficient, environmentally friendly LED lighting." Not just making LEDs but making the incandescent light bulb obsolete! That sure catches my attention.

But those watching the bleeding edge of lighting and display technology know that organic light emitting diodes are hot on LED's heels and may pack more punch than it can handle.

What's the difference?
OLED screens can emit their own light without the need for backlight, so power consumption is lower than conventional LED screens. OLEDs can also basically be printed onto a substrate such as plastic, forming a flexible screen that can be molded into nearly any shape. If you've ever seen videos of flexible or transparent screens at trade shows, that's OLED technology.

For now, research in OLED production has focused on display technology. Samsung is using Universal Display's (Nasdaq: PANL) technology to build cell phone displays and is spending $2.2 billion to build a large-scale production line. Sony (NYSE: SNE) is also building OLED displays but doesn't appear to have the same commitment as Samsung after being first to market in 2007. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), always on the cutting edge, has been rumored to be moving to OLED screens for the past few years, and it wouldn't be surprising to see iPhones and/or iPads become OLED as factories' capacities grow large enough to accommodate the massive volume Apple requires.

The fight for light
While Cree should be worried about its display backlighting business eventually, conventional lighting has little to worry about in OLEDs for years to come. Universal Displays is working with the Department of Energy to develop lighting solutions, but it doesn't appear a solution will be viable for five to 10 years.

OLED technology is certainly exciting and will have a multitude of options in years to come, but it isn't a big threat to Cree right now. Until manufacturers ramp production, costs come down, and the technology stabilizes, LED lighting has a major head start and should continue recently strong results. Cree should be a growth engine as LED applications take off in lighting and display products. Tell us your thoughts on LED and OLED in the comments section below.

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Fool contributor Travis Hoium does not have a position in any company mentioned here. Universal Display is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.