Since nearly half of the TVs now sold are either liquid crystal or plasma flat-panel displays, this news of flatter TVs might strike you as being a bit dated, but hear me out. I believe televisions of the future, like supermodels, will only continue to get thinner and better-looking.
Last year, Motorola announced the development of an energy-efficient, high-definition five-inch nano-emissive display. At the time, given cost concerns and manufacturing problems, it seemed destined to remain a prototype. Motorola's difficulties in creating uniform carbon nanotubes (CNTs), then placing those nanotubes in precise locations on the display, prevented wider use of the technology.
According to a recent report in MIT's Technology Review, it now appears that Motorola has addressed both of these concerns. More importantly, it is now in discussions with several unnamed Asian manufacturing companies about the possibility of licensing its CNT technology.
Time will tell whether the technology can compete against the dropping costs of LCD and plasma technology that Matsushita
If manufacturers have to swap out much of their expensive manufacturing infrastructure, the technology will likely be relegated to the ash-heap of other promising-but-impractical technologies. Manufacturers would be understandably reluctant to accept the high upfront capital expenditures that such a change would require.
If, however, Motorola's proprietary process for creating and distributing CNTs can be applied to phosphor screens using equipment similar to what LCD manufacturers employ today to deposit silicon, the technology could make some serious inroads. The CNTs will enable thinner, brighter, sharper TVs -- millions of CNTs, which act as tiny electron emitters, can be placed on every display -- that actually use less power than their current counterparts.
I remain bullish on Motorola for a variety of reasons besides this CNT technology, including the potential fruits of its WiMax relationship with Intel
Here's how I think about it. It's good news that Motorola's CNT technology is out of the lab, and even better that manufacturers are actively considering it. The best news -- a licensing agreement with a major flat-panel display manufacturer, with the promise of new, flatter TVs -- may still be yet to come.
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Fool contributor Jack Uldrich still only has two bulky, old cathode-ray tube TVs in his house. He's hoping that he's been a good enough boy this year for Santa to rectify this situation. He owns stock in both Motorola and Intel. The Fool has a strict disclosure policy.