Samsung showed off its flexible Youm display technology.

youmSome believed we would see Samsung’s much-anticipated flexible screen this year, while other analysts said 2013 was much too early. Now, the world’s biggest technology manufacturer has finally spoken about possible timescales.

At his closing keynote address to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Samsung showed off its flexible Youm display technology.

But the South Korean firm also said the new, flexible displays would not be coming anytime soon. Samsung emphasised that Youm was a prototype that was not going to launch imminently.

Despite a potentially lengthy timescale, Samsung is clearly delighted with the new innovation. Stephen Woo, who is president of Samsung Device Solutions, said Youm did not just bend the rules of display technologies, but that “it completely rewrites them”.

Brian Berkeley, senior vice president of display, showed off the flexible OLED screens, demonstrating possible uses.

He showed a prototype device which had a screen wrapped around the side and a message being delivered to the long side of the device.

youm againA concept video showing at the same time introduced another possible gizmo which opened and closed like a book, with screens on both the inside and outside. And, yet another application showed a screen rolling out of a storage stick. One gizmo, which appeared to be a smart phone then proceeded to fold out, transforming into a tablet.

“This new form factor will really begin to change how people interact with their devices,” said Berkeley, “opening up new lifestyle possibilities, and allowing our partners to create a whole new ecosystem of devices.”

The device was shown running Windows 8, in a move which is seen as significant because it seems to show Samsung is keen to reduce its reliance on Google Android.

Eric Rutter, who is Microsoft’s Chief Technology Strategy Officer, said it was now clear that the displays of the future did not need to be rigid. Talking about Apple’s marketing strategy, which is often said to create a “reality distortion field,” he said “we’ve actually built one.”

The new technology has the tech forums very excited. One user said: “Flexible screens of this quality will exponentially expand devices’ possibilities. And another added: “It shows that Samsung is innovating and it could inspire other products where it could be of use.”

Cnet writer Josh Lowensohn summed it up in a live blog when he said: “Man, that’s neat.”youm pic

But it is clear that Samsung is not without competitors. Corning, best known for making Gorilla Glass, now widely used in high-end devices for its virtually shatter-proof qualities, is working on its own flexible glass product, codenamed Willow.

LG and Nokia have also recently demonstrated flexible prototypes for smartphones and tablets.

Samsung’s keynote address also featured former American President Bill Clinton. He talked about the transformative power of technology for the developing world before going on to talk about how medical technology was progressing and adding his voice to calls for stricter gun control in the US.

No wonder everyone, including Clinton, is impressed with new technology when you consider we could soon be using tablet computers which fold up into our pockets.