The final company we talked to at the show was 3M, you know the company that makes post-it notes, plasters, tape and what not. Well, they're also making polarizers that go into the displays and this is a very important feature, as a bad polarizer means a lot of wasted light from the backlight.
That said, we're not going to go into too much details on the subject of polarizers, instead we're going to look at a couple of other products the company was demoing. First up was an Ethernet powered TV. Yes, you did read that correctly, but in this case we're talking PoE (Power over Ethernet) which means that you either need a switch/router with PoE support, or a PoE injector to add power to the Ethernet cables.
3M's idea here is that it's easier to install Ethernet cabling than putting in power sockets around the house and as it doesn't require a certified electrician to do the job, it's also much cheaper. The demo TV was a tiny 24-incher which would be quite easy to power over PoE as the standard delivers some 25W+ worth of power, but larger screens require a lot more power than this. It's an interesting concept and it's nice to only need a single cable to the TV for both power and Internet access and it might be the way of the TV of the future.
The next demo was of a USB 3.0 powered display, although we were surprised to see a single USB 3.0 cable running from the notebook to the display after having seen CPT's solutions earlier. Well, it turns out that the Acer notebook in question is capable of delivering more than 900mA to the USB 3.0 port and as this is another 9W display; it has the same requirements as the CPT model. This model was slightly larger though at 23.6-inches, but again it was just a demo unit and not a final production sample. Internally it has a solution from DisplayLink and interestingly the 3M representative we talked to suggested that this was the much delayed USB 3.0 implementation from the company. The panel itself isn't as good as the ones from CPT, as it has a brightness of only 200 cm/m2 which is somewhat worse than your average desktop display, but keep in mind that this is still a prototype.
We got talking to the 3M representative about the technology used and as thing went we were informed that Intel had been by the show a day prior and was talking up its Thunderbolt technology. What surprised us was that Intel has told the person we spoke that Thunderbolt supports LVDS and as such was a superior technology for directly connecting monitors to computers compared to USB 3.0. If true, this is information that Intel has as yet to release to the public as so far it's only known that Thunderbolt supports DisplayPort and PCI Express signalling and not that it could somehow drive a display over LVDS.
The peculiar thing here is that LVDS is a dying standard set to be replaced by simpler serial interfaces such as eDP and this is meant to happen as soon as 2013. Intel also seems to have missed that there's a certain cost discrepancy between USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt, although how big it is, only Intel knows as no official pricing was ever announced for its Thunderbolt controllers. Considering that adding a USB 3.0 port today is in the sub US$2 price region, we have a hard time seeing how Intel can compete on the PC side, albeit it might lead to cheaper implementations on the display side compared to using DisplayLink's solutions to drive a display over USB 3.0. We're just going to have to wait and see what Intel comes up with, but this is at least an interesting development that we found out about purely by chance.