Samsung Goes Big at CES With Bill Clinton and Bendable Phone Screens

Prototype Mobile Screen Can Be Folded in Hypothetical Product Designs

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With Microsoft absent and Qualcomm's big Tuesday keynote generally mocked around the web, Samsung on Wednesday looked to claim its place as the new master of stagecraft at the Consumer Electronics Show, deploying prototypes of bendable screens for mobile devices as well as the ultimate show-stealer, former president Bill Clinton.

Samsung's Stephen Woo
Samsung's Stephen Woo

Speaking under the pretext of promoting a charitable initiative called Samsung Hope for Children, Mr. Clinton wrapped up the company's keynote presentation with comments that first centered on mobile technology's benefits to developing nations and then segued to politics, the culture wars in the U.S., the "unjustifiable neglect of gun safety" and his chagrin that an assault weapons ban hasn't been reinstated.

"I ask you to think about how all these devices can be used to bridge the remaining divides in the world," he said near the close, returning to the subject of mobile technology.

Samsung, for its part, tried to make a presentation about its components for clients like Google, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard into something sexy. The keynote's emcee, Samsung Device Solutions President Stephen Woo, discussed the company's new Exynos 5 Octa chip for tablets and high-end smartphones and its new, greener memory devices for the skyrocketing number of data centers around the world. But Samsung saved the catchiest element, the foldable screen, for last.

Brian Berkeley, senior VP for Samsung's display lab, demonstrated bending the thin piece of plastic, which has been given the brand name "Youm," and how it might work in a tablet by forming a curved edge that could display incoming texts or emails even when a device is closed. A video depicted a tablet that could be folded into a phone.

The idea is to enable Samsung's partners to create a new ecosystem of devices with "bended, folded and rollable screens," Mr. Berkeley said.

"This new form factor will really begin to change how people interact with their devices," he added.

The keynote employed a few other bells and whistles, including an inexplicable dance routine by a line of scantily clad women near the beginning. It also paid homage to the internet's favorite meme. A video just before the section on greener memory devices showed a succession of cat videos and explained that cats are "big data's best friends" because they encourage people to share such massive amounts of content.

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