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Samsung takes $3.1B gamble on OLED displays for tablets and notebooks

That must be why PC sales are down – the blacks just aren't inky enough

Samsung Electronics will pour $3.14 billion into production of advanced organic light-emitting-diode displays (OLED) for use in tablets and notebooks by 2026, betting it's the future for fondleslabs and laptops.

While OLED displays have been a popular option for high-end televisions and smartphones, where the technology's per-pixel lighting allows for inkier blacks and thinner panels than traditional LCDs, it's seen slower adoption in the notebook and tablet space.

The investment will see Samsung's Display division adapt its production lines in Asan – located just south of Seoul – to produce displays suitable for these devices and boost production from roughly 4.5 million panels a year to more than 10 million, according to Korean newswire Yonhap. To support this expansion, Samsung will reportedly recruit 26,000 workers for the site.

South Korea's president Yoon Seok-yeol deemed Samsung's investment of sufficient import to attend the announcement of the plan and endorse it heartily.

The Register has asked Samsung for comment; we'll let you know if the chaebol responds.

The news also comes less than a week after the South Korean government approved the so-called "Korea Chips Act" which extends hefty tax-breaks to companies investing in domestic semiconductor manufacturing. Under the law, major chipmakers in the region, including Samsung and SK hynix, would be entitled to tax credits of up to 15 percent on chip investments – up from 8 percent previously.

The bill follows a rapid shift in demand for advanced semiconductors used in PCs, gaming, storage, and memory. After a years-long semiconductor shortage, demand has slowed considerably, causing average selling prices to plummet. As with many memory vendors, Samsung's financials have taken a beating in recent quarters and in Q4, the conglomerate's electronics business saw its profits slide 69 percent from the year prior to $3.4 billion.

Samsung responded by borrowing $16 billion from its display business and prioritizing high-end, high-margin parts like DDR5 and high-bandwidth memory (HBM).

The latter technologies are expected to be in high demand as companies rush to implement generative AI, which needs HBM-equipped GPUs. New systems running the latest AMD and Intel server parts, which for the first time support DDR5, are also expected to bring a thirst for DDR5 memory in the datacenter.

However, these trends are unlikely to change Samsung's fortunes in the near term, according to a recent report from semiconductor-centric analyst firm TrendForce. According to TrendForce, the DRAM market is still expected to contract 15–20 percent over the next quarter despite the ramp in AI adoption.

Despite this, Samsung remains bullish on its long-term prospects. Last month it announced plans to build $230 billion worth of semiconductor plants in South Korea over the next two decades. ®

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