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Large-format LCD prices to rise claims market watcher

So much for Apple's LCD-only policy...

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Mac users hoping that Apple's move to ditch CRT displays from its monitor family in favour of an all-LCD line-up will be matched by falling display prices are set to be disappointed.

Prices of large-size Thin-film Transistor (TFT) LCDs - the good ones, in other words - will cease falling in Q3 or Q4 of this year and then rise early next year, according to the latest data from market researcher DisplaySearch.

That demand for LCD displays is increasing is clear. DisplaySearch reckons shipments of 10.4in TFT LCDs will reach 29 million units this year, up from 23.6 million last year. By 2005, LCD shipments will have risen to 58.7 million units, amounting to an average annual growth rate of 20 per cent.

However, while demand grows, supply will tighten. Tough competition is forcing LCD makers to focus on small form-factor LCDs. Last year demand for these parts was very high, yet supply was poor. That forced prices up, and increased producers' margins considerably. So too are the much higher yields on smaller LCDs than the larger models. It's those margins that the major LCD makers are now chasing.

The upshot, says DisplaySearch, will be a relative fall in the production of large LCDs, which will ultimately drive prices up. DisplaySearch estimates an increase in large LCD prices of around five per cent per quarter through 2002.

Last year, some 60 per cent of the LCDs produced were destined for desktop monitors and notebook PCs. By 2005, that figure will have fallen to 50 per cent.

Apple's LCDs are superbly styled, but they remain far more expensive than equivalently sized CRTs. They're also not much use to anyone who changes screen resolution frequently, such as gamers. The company unveiled its LCD-only plan this week at its Worldwide Developers Conference (see this story).

Apple's 17in LCD costs $999 - the equivalent CRT costs around a fifth of that. In such circumstances, it's hard to see how aesthetics - even Apple's - can beat economics.

That said, Apple has moved to limit its customers' monitor choices before. When it introduced the Apple Display Connector, for example, it ensured that owners of older Macs or those with video cards bought at retail couldn't buy any of its current display family. The upshot of the latest move will be the same: you want a good looking screen, you're going to have to pay through the nose for it, and possibly even have to buy a new Mac. ®

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