The International Consumer Electronics Show is in full swing and the biggest star of the show isn’t a new gadget. Is it Microsoft‘s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows 8 operating system and the new Lumia 900 Windows Phone from Nokia (NYSE:NOK)? Is it Google‘s (NASDAQ:GOOG) resurgent Google TV platform and the Connected HDTVs and set-top boxes it’s running on? How about Sharp‘s (PINK:SHCAY) 80-inch behemoth LCD TV, poised to transform the average living room into an overwhelming home theater?
No, no, and no. The prettiest debutante at the CES ball isn’t any of these devices, but it is dancing with all of them. Corning‘s (NYSE:GLW) Gorilla Glass is everywhere at CES.
New York State’s most famous glassware company is talking up the latest version of its ultra-light, ultra strong glass at the show while nearly every electronics manufacture in the world is showing off products that use the material. Gorilla Glass 2.0 is 20% thinner than the original Gorilla Glass, just .8mm thick compared to 1mm. The original material has made Corning the toast of the glass display manufacturing business since Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) popularized it with the original iPhone in 2007. The new version of the glass also improves image quality and makes for a more responsive touch screen than its predecessor.
It is also remarkably durable, able to withstand 55kg of force per square meter, or, to get technical, a force of about 539 Newtons. To get un-technical, that means that a really big dog could bite a sheet of Gorilla Glass 2.0 and the glass would be just fine.
The glass is so sleek and strong, it seems everyone’s putting it in their new toys. Samsung (PINK:SSNLF), the Korean company that managed to pull ahead of Apple as the world’s leading smartphone manufacturer in the third quarter of 2011, showed off its (relatively) enormous Galaxy Note phone at CES on Tuesday. The device has a 5.3-inch screen–substantially larger than the average 4-inch smartphone screen–that is made out of Corning’s new glass. It’s also in Motorola‘s (NYSE:MMI) Droid Razr phone.
Handheld devices aren’t alone in using the technology either. Sony‘s (NYSE:SNE) newly announced line of Bravia HDTVs use the second-generation Gorilla Glass, as do Nokia and Microsoft’s Lumia 900, Toshbia’s new Excite X10 tablet, and Dell‘s (NASDAQ:DELL) first Ultrabook laptop. Not to be glib, but Gorilla Glass is apparently the new black. At CES 2012, Corning is the company in display technologies on people’s lips, not Nippon Electric (PINK:NPEGF) and not Asahi Glass.
This is good news for Corning’s investors. Revenue from Gorilla Glass in 2011 is expected to total $700 million, more than two-and-a-half times 2010’s revenue of $250 million. The company generates around $2 billion in revenue each quarter, with the Gorilla Glass-making Display Technologies operating segment of the company generating around 39% of that revenue. The glass’ dramatic earnings growth in just a year, coupled with a hyped new version of that product, indicates it is well positioned to gain prominence in handheld electronics. Corning cut its profit outlook for the fourth quarter of 2011 due to the weak TV market, on which Gorilla Glass has relied heavily, but if smartphones, tablets, and Ultrabook laptops use the material, it can combat those losses.
So 2012 is heating up for Corning. CES is Gorilla Glass 2.0’s coming-out party. And with new devices from Apple like the iPad 3, Apple HDTV, and iPhone 5 expected out this year, it looks like the party won’t stop soon.