IBM Debuts Ultra-Rez Flat-Panel Displays

Flat-panel displays are moving up to the next level of performance, thanks to International Business Machines. On Wednesday, November 10, the company announced what observers called an "eye-popping" LCD screen with an astounding 123 pixels (picture elements) per square inch—more than twice the typical 55-per-square-inch pixel count of high-definition television screens. The almost-21-inch-diagonal screen, dubbed the QX20, is capable of resolutions as high as 2048x1536.

The advantage for users is clearer, brighter images than have ever been possible from LCDs. "The higher the resolution of the dots, the better the picture," explained Kevin Reardon, director of strategy for IBM's Technology Group. Because of its cost—estimated at between $5000 and $7000 retail—the new display is expected to hit high-technology customers first, including the financial industry and the upper end of the graphics and content-creation market. A 30" version, large enough for home-theater applications in rooms of small to medium size, is said to be in the works. The QX20 will begin shipping early in 2000, with panels of even higher resolution on the way. A prototype with 200 pixels per inch was demonstrated last year.

IBM has a long tradition of being at the forefront of technological research. The announcement of the QX20 comes on the heels of an announcement that IBM scientists and engineers have developed flexible transistors that could enable the production of large-scale, lightweight, thin display panels. The "display wall," once a science-fiction fantasy, might soon be a reality for consumers everywhere.

Other companies are also moving into the flat-panel market. On November 12, Hitachi Ltd. signed a systems integration agreement with Iicon Corp., which will develop Hitachi's new flat-panel displays primarily for industrial and medical uses.