What the Hell Happened to OLED TV in 2009?

2009 was supposed to be the year of OLED TVs. Sony dazzled us with actually watchable sizes and Samsung flat out said so. So, uh, what the hell happened to OLED at CES 2009?

OLED TVs—a nigh miraculous display tech that blows away plasma and LCD when it comes to sheer OMGorgeousness—were supposed to hit their trade-show fantasy prime this year: Still too expensive for you and me, but flooding our greedy retinas with stunning images at every corner, just a few months away from hanging on Usher's bathroom wall. It's not just that there aren't any of the big OLED TVs we'd been hearing about—nothing near 40 inches—we're just not seeing them.

The announcements were really low-key or non-existent. Sir Howard gave a brief shout-out to Sony's new flexible OLED in his keynote. Not a peep of new product in Samsung's conference. The booth footprint is also tiny—remarkably so, considering how hard S & S were cheerleading last year.

OLED TVs being shown off this year would still be crazy expensive, yes, and big ones, retardedly so. But the argument that the economy deflated the rapidly expanding OLED TV bubble doesn't make a whole lot of sense—the economy panic really hit in late summer/early fall, while development cycles are years long. More than that, affordability has never been a tenant or consideration in the annual parade of what's new, what's amazing, what's next. Last year, they said it was OLED. So where is it?

Samsung says they need to run through at least one more generation of LCD—with a new, heretofore unseen generation of LED backlighting technology—before OLED will be ready for primetime. And it's unlikely they're going to let Sony step ahead of them, so now we're talking 2011ish at the very minimum. Not to mention, the plasma guys—Panasonic and Pioneer—aren't even going to talk OLED till they've finished milking their ultra-thin plasma strategy dry.

There is a bright side, at least for a handful of rich dudes: A slowed OLED TV development cycle means their 11-inch XEL-1s will be special for that much longer.

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