What is it?

Standing for Organic Light Emitting Diode, it's the basis of the next generation of display technology. It's soon to be seen in standard computer screens and domestic TVs and is already here in the likes of mobile phones, digital cameras and PDAs.

What are the variations of the technology?

There are two types of OLED displays commonly seen around today, AMOLED and PMOLED based technology. Although Passive-Matrix OLED screens can be seen in smaller displays as the design is more or less geared for that market, Active-Matrix OLED screens can now be seen within mobile phones.

PMOLED is more or less made for the smaller device, as it does have a high power draw over the latter by its nature alone if compared size against size. AMOLED is geared for the much larger screen, making it an ideal product for normal sized computer displays and even the bigger HDTV screens.

PMOLED is operating by switching columns and row, where as AMOLED technology is controlled by manipulating each and every pixel for a much better image production.

Why should I care?

OLED screens do have many benefits over traditional LCD-based displays. They produce a much sharper image, along with being brighter than the normal displays used today and is a different design on the whole. They also draw much less power than those other screens, as they do not require a backlight to illuminate them due to their brightness. This in turn offers a much greener alternative to the displays seen around today.

Just as LCDs once offered over Cathode ray tubes as a new, thinner form factor, OLED technology is also thinner due to its overall design and manufacturing. This could very well once again revolutionise the screen industry, when adopted on mass.

It's been touted that larger screens for the home can be around a quarter of an inch in depth with this new technology. Proven prototypes of displays with these very claims backed up have already been seen at various trade shows, from CES in Las Vegas to CeBIT in Hamburg.

As a result of being much thinner than the LCDs, they also are much lighter and more flexible too. This in turn means they're much more resilient to bumps and drops than standard displays making them ideal for the likes of mobile phones and PDAs.

What's a good example in practice?

There are already a lot of the OLED products seen around today, with many more devices on the cards promised later this year and the following. The type of screens that can be seen are in digital cameras, mobile phones and PDAs all featuring OLED's clarity and brightness.

Much larger displays are to be seen next, with their ultra thin designs because of the very nature of the OLED technology and the way it's embedded in a screen housings.

Sony recently launched the XEL-1, boasting the title of the Europe's first OLED screen and the world's thinnest display. This primarily is aimed as a replacement for a small portable television, with a width just 3mm in depth and 11-inches in diameter – with a price tag of nearly £3,500.

Kodak is producing AMOLED digital picture frames, LG is working on OLED TVs, Samsung has shown off a foldable OLED mobile phone based screen and even Nokia ships its N85 with an OLED display.

Is there a competing technology that I should be aware of?

At present, it's early days still for OLED on larger screens above those sizes seen in mobiles and on digital cameras. The competing technology in the market space OLED displays are heading for is the LCD TFT standard on screens today. This technology is still very popular and will be for sometime, until the demand for OLED screens becomes more widespread as both a requirement and need.

One of the initial downsides to OLED screens is the cost, at present. Companies such as LG have said their OLED televisions sets could cost over twice as much, compared to normal LCD TVs. This is due to the new type of manufacturing currently involved, all of which will undoubtedly come down in cost over time.

It's been also said that water can easily damage some OLED displays, as the glass screen used for LCD TFT screens aren't always present or necessary which would normally add an extra layer of protection.

What is in store for the future?

As with most new and emerging technology it's the mass adoption that's the future, along with the refining of the manufacturing techniques used in order to make them more affordable whilst being a realistic viable alternative to LCDs.

OLEDs seem to be easier to produce, making them the ideal replacement for the future of flat screen displays. They're also much more versatile within viewing angles than these LCD TFT screens, as they can be viewed from a much more rounded area. Other displays in use today can lose their sharpness from certain angles, as compared to these OLED screens.

The screens themselves are said to be able to refresh at 1000 times faster than LCD displays, where gaming platforms would easily be an ideal target for the OLED market next. This is in addition to larger public displays, along with billboards clearly benefiting from this type of technology as it can be bent to fit almost any surrounding and environment whilst being made at a larger scale too.