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LCD price crash pushes manufacturers into PDAs and phones

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LCD manufacturers in Japan are trying to offset the financial damage done by falling PC and notebook screen prices by moving into production of LCD screens for PDAs and mobile phones. With the mobile phone market set to exceed 410 million units this year, it is a market the companies cannot ignore.

Sharp, Japan's largest LCD manufacturer said that it expects the price of a panel measuring 13 inches or more to drop by as much as 30 per cent in the next six months. Smaller panels will only drop by five per cent. It said that small panels would account for 52 per cent of its total sales in the same period, up from 48 per cent in the first half.

Hitachi and NEC said they would begin producing colour displays too: Hitachi by the end of the year, followed by an early 2001 debut for NEC.

Hitachi said that it would be manufacturing colour super twisted nematic* LCD panels for mobile by the end of the year. The company said that once its new production line at its Mobara plant is completed next year, it will begin production of thin-film transistors or TFT LCD screens - a move that it hopes will "stabilise" its LCD business according to a company spokesman.

Another growth area for the LCD manufacturers is the game console market, in particular, Game Boys. The demand is such that Sharp, the sole supplier to Nintendo's Gameboy, has had to boost production to 2.5 million units per month - an increase of nearly 70 per cent. ®

*Nematic: A term used to describe a phase of liquid crystal in which the axes of the molecules align in parallel when exposed to a magnetic field.

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