Flat-Panel Display Sales Overtake CRTs; Prices Falling Fast

Thin, stylish LCD flat-panel computer displays will surpass the sales of bulky cathode-ray tube (CRT) monitors for the first time in the US later this year, according to researcher DisplaySearch. Sales of liquid crystal displays (LCDs) are expected to reach US$21 billion this year and projections are that prices will slowly fall on all size displays over the next few years.

In addition to reduced size, reduced power consumption and reduced eye-strain, consumers in North America are buying up flat-panel displays primarily because prices are as competitive as those for CRT monitors, according to DisplaySearch analyst Chris Connery.

"Prices started coming down in the third-quarter of last year with 15-inch models going below US$300 and just over US$430 for 17-inch models," Mr. Connery told The Mac Observer.

In terms of actual numbers, Display Search is predicting that this quarter in North America, LCD monitors will capture 53 percent of the market compared to 45 percent for CRT displays. Worldwide, projections are for LCD displays to capture 53 percent of the market beginning in the calendar second-quarter, with CRTs controlling 46 percent. LCD displays will not overtake CRTs worldwide until the calendar second-quarter, the company predicted.

Similar numbers were reported last week by industry research firm IDC, which reported its projections also show LCD displays shipments will surpass CRT monitors in 2004.

Prices falling fast

Despite a small price increase on LCD displays in the fourth-quarter of last year, prices are expected to fall later this year, Connery said.

"Desktop monitor pricing went up in Q4 and is still trending up a bit due to the fact that much of the allocation of the LCD module glass is being used for TVs currently," Mr. Connery said. "For example, a 15-inch LCD monitor which might have cost US$299 in Q3, might be going for US$349 or above right now.

"Since the LCD TV market hasnit taken off yet and was weaker than expected in the fourth-quarter, then pricing for desktop monitors may come down when the factories can be retooled to produce modules for monitors; but since this takes time, DisplaySearch is currently not predicting any street level monitor price reductions until after April."

17-inch displays reign supreme

17-inch LCD displays are now the best selling size display in the U.S. 17-inch displays overtook 15-inch models in the third-quarter of last year, said Mr. Connery. Worldwide, 17-inch models became the best selling size in the fourth-quarter.

"15-inch pricing went up a little bit in Q4, so the price gap between it and 17-inch models decreased," Mr. Connery commented. "Thatis why so many more 17-inch LCD displays were sold in the holiday buying season of last year."

CRTs to die slow death

Connery confirmed that as the popularity for LCD displays grows, production of CRT monitors will fall to a point where old-style, bulky monitors will be hard to find by 2007. "CRTs wonit disappear all together, but it will be difficult to find a selection of them," he said.

IDC reported a respectable 30 million CRT monitors will ship between now and 2007, but that the vast majority of CRT shipments will be to less-developed countries, as more advanced markets switch completely to LCD displays.

More market = more players

As LCD displays become more popular, the number of companies selling them is increasing. Among the new players is Xerox, Chinese electronics maker Shanghai Video & Audio, and South Korean electronics maker LG.

"There are many more Asian manufacturers now making LCD displays inexpensively enough for many brands to start selling LCD displays," Mr. Connery said. "They can very easily make these products from manufacturers already producing them under their own names - like Samsung, Sony and alike - and sell them in their markets under already established brand names."