Monitor revenues sinking steadily

Taiwan's IT hardware producers overall are expected to see healthy revenue growth of over 20 per cent this year, but the island's cathode ray tube monitor makers will have less reason to open the champagne, according to new forecasts from Taiwan's semi-official Market Intelligence Center.

While Taiwan's overall IT hardware output is expected to have a post growth of 22 per cent, from last year's $US30.2 billion to $US37 billion, the island's CRT monitor revenues are set to shrink, said Lin Chen-Pang, director of the government-supported think-tank, in a presentation on the opening day of the Computex '98 trade show.

"In this year's first quarter, monitor revenues were down by 12.6 per cent," said Lin. And for the full year, MIC now estimates that sales will be down by some 8 per cent from last year.

One of the main reasons behind the downturn is that Taiwan's monitor makers, who together with Japanese and Korean producers supply the bulk of the world's computer monitors, are under severe pricing pressure as a result of the boom in sub-$US1000 PC sales, noted Lin.

And anecdotal evidence suggests that prices of low-end CRT monitors are indeed hitting new lows.

"Vendors are cleaning out inventory of older 14-inch models which now are going for as low as $US70 a piece," said one executive at a Taiwanese PC maker.

Meanwhile, the island's monitor makers are moving into more lucrative businesses, such as desktop and notebook PCs, as well as the more expensive flat-panel liquid crystal display (LCD) screens, hoping to offset the revenue fall in CRT monitors, said MIC's Lin.

As a result, users this year can expect to see prices of stand-alone LCD screens to fall to new lows, as more and more vendors are entering the business, officials at several companies predicted.

Notebook PC maker Twinhead International, for example, launched its new line of LCD screens at the show, and officials said that they expect to be able to compete successfully with many of the island's CRT makers.

"We have very close relations with our LCD panel suppliers, from our notebook business," said Steve Hwang, deputy manager in Twinhead's OEM (original equipment manufacturing) sales department.

Twinhead's first LCD monitor, an active-matrix 15-inch model capable of showing XGA resolutions of 1,024 x 768 pixels, is expected to carry a retail price of below $US1000, said Hwang. "And that price will surely be even lower by the end of this year."

Hwang noted that as a 15-inch LCD monitor is almost equal to a 17-inch CRT monitor when it comes to actual viewable display area, flat-panel prices have already reached the magical price point of being less than twice as expensive as the older display technology.

Taiwan's Market Intelligence Center, in Taipei, can be reached via the World Wide Web at http://mic.iii.org.tw/

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