Flat-panel price decreases forecast

Tom Martin, director of IBM's flat-panel program, noted Thursday that Sony's PlayStation 2 with a couple of games thrown in makes a $US500 gift this season, "and they're selling like hotcakes."

Martin expects that by next year, some 15-inch LCD monitors will sell for under $US500, or about twice the anticipated price of quality 17-inch CRTs, which have a comparable viewing area. And at that price differential, he said, "Flat panels have the opportunity to be the technology gift of 2001."

Martin was among several executives on a panel about LCD monitors at the Stanford Resources 17th annual Flat Information Displays conference. Stanford Resources is a leading display industry research firm, and its director of monitor research, Rhoda Alexander, is also bullish in her overview of the LCD market.

"This market really can take off if the supply is there to match it," Alexander told conference attendees. Thanks to an influx of new manufacturing facilities and improvements in yields and manufacturing processes, supplies are expected to increase significantly over the next year. The resulting competition will lower prices in all categories, she said.

Big displays, bigger price drops

Stanford Resources predicts average 15-inch display prices will fall to about $US600 a year from now, then will level off as supplies begin to tighten again. In the same time frame, Alexander expects more dramatic price drops for larger screens. The 17-inch displays that now go for $US1300 or more could drop to about $US1000.

Eighteen-inch displays are expected to plummet to under $US2000. That's still considerably more than the 17-inch displays, but a marked improvement from today's $US2500.

At these prices, LCD demand could soar from today's relatively modest levels, Alexander said. She reminded attendees that while people were slow to adopt colour CRT monitors, once the shift from monochrome to colour started, the bulk of the transition occurred over three years.

System vendors could give LCD monitor sales a push -- and their own profits -- by bundling them with desktop systems, Alexander added.

However, Compaq Computer's Scott Gray said he doesn't see much future for all-in-one LCD-PCs, in which the computer is actually part of the display. Corporate technology managers are particularly opposed to these hybrids because of the difference in anticipated life span between displays and the PCs themselves, he said. Corporations generally like to keep displays in service for five years, compared to three for the rest of the system. With an all-in-one, you can't replace the computer without switching the entire unit, which could get expensive.

Other discussions at the two-day conference will look at: trends in larger screen LCD and plasma displays; LCDs in nonmonitor products such as personal digital assistants and other portable devices; projection displays; and the upcoming Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) displays.

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