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CRT displays – not as dead as you'd think

Monitor market mayhem set to cool down

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Analysis The monitor market has taken some twists and turns recently, with TFT shortages, CRT screens getting bigger and flatter, and more sophisticated consumers rejecting the channel. This is the opinion of manufacturers and distributors in the sector, who believe the monitor market is about to emerge from a prolonged difficult period. "This is characterised by several consecutive years of price erosion, with prices declining by as much as 30 per cent over a 12-month period," says Paul Dyer, general manager for PC peripherals at Samsung. The price is right The issue of pricing has dominated the sector since prices crashed last year, and has effectively forced the 14in monitor out of the market. Last month saw Hansol pull out of making 14in monitors, and LG Electronics has not made this size CRT for the UK market since last year. As the 15in CRT has fallen in price it has replaced the 14in monitor as the entry-level choice for many consumers. Bob Raikes, an analyst at Meko, says: "The bigger names aren’t making 14in anymore because there is no profit in them. But this means there will be a shortage of 14in and even 15in monitors later this year." Size matters For resellers, it means the upgrades are changing. When 14in was the usual entry-level size, the logical upgrade was 17in. Now the entry level is 15in, the more usual upgrade is becoming 19in. Dyer says: "The demand for larger screens is driven by end-user application, and as screens are used increasingly for more graphic-intensive applications, such as the Web, demand will increase." Trade price for a 17in is currently around £120, and for a 15in, between £80 and £90. The extra cost of the monitor can be hidden by the system builder through other components in the PC. The end-user sees a 17in monitor at entry level competing with PCs with 15in screens at the same price, and chooses the larger screen. Going flat out Other recent trends in the monitor sector include a move towards flatter screens. In March of this year, LG Electronics introduced its 17in Flatron monitor with a street price of around £280 (ex. VAT). It is likely that almost all CRT monitors will be flat by the middle of next year. "There is definitely a progression to these new completely flat technologies," agrees Nick Heather, LG Electronics IT product manager. As for TFT screens, the product shortage seen recently is beginning to free-up, according to Graham Dark, product marketing manager at components distributor Microtronica. However, it is unlikely that prices will come down significantly in the near future. "Manufacturers seem to have more kit available, although it's still a Catch 22 situation," he says. "Customers don't like to buy these products because they're too expensive, but prices can't come down until TFTs become more popular." Sales are increasing, but TFT is still selling to a very specialised market. With trade prices between £600 and £700 for 15in screens, and around £1900 for 18in screens, it will be some time before it becomes a volume product, says Dark. But current manufacturing techniques mean that there are still shortages in the TFT market, according to Heather. "Things are a lot more stable now, but there will continue to be shortages because of the length of time vendors need to set up new manufacturing processes," he says. "It can take about two years to get a fresh production line from start to finish." Cross channel? Very On the issue of CRT buying trends, Heather says the industry is seeing a definite shift towards the high street. "The average UK consumer is getting a lot more knowledgeable. We are now seeing people buying upgrades through the more mainstream channels of mail order and retail, rather than through VARs. "Resellers are still the main channel to market, but increasingly consumers are using the alternatives," he says. Yet there is still a future for CRT, thanks to its price, availability and technological advancements. In addition, it now looks as though prices will stop falling -– bringing back some much needed stability to the UK monitor market. ®

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