Flat-Panel LCDs: What’s Ahead


For the typical desktop, most IT managers considering flat-panel LCD monitors will be looking at 15- and 17-inch displays, priced in the $400 to 500 and $700 to $900 range, respectively. Customers requiring a step up in performance can go with larger displays or add digital interfaces and pay incremental premiums. Those that really want to push the envelope and are willing to shell out five figures for a monitor can look for ultra high-resolution displays suited for the most demanding of medical, manufacturing or design applications where the highest level of precision is essential.

The good news is that the prices on ultra high-end LCD monitors are starting to come down. For example, IBM recently slashed the price of its near-photographic quality 22-inch UXGA-W monitor from $18,000 to $8,400. Not for an ordinary office worker, of course, this display boasts resolution of 3840 x 2400.

Coming down the pike in a few years are flat panels with higher quality displays. Under development is display technology called Organtic LED, or OLED, which will offer higher levels of brightness and contrast, faster response times (ideal for full-motion video) and lighter weight panels, among other features.

Despite advantages in OLED, which is now used in car stereos and higher end cell phones, OLED is not expected to hit the mass market until 2008, according to iSupply/Stanford Resources. But more than 100 manufacturers are developing products or components, the research firm reports.

And for those that may want to be on the cutting edge but whose work can't justify the five figures for a computer, no less a monitor, they can look for a new crop of devices that will start to appear later this year. For example, in May ViewSonic will release its AirPanel 100, a 2.5-pound device with a 10.4-inch screen that will let individuals take their monitors out of the office and access their PCs anywhere on a wireless LAN. The device, which will cost $1,200, will have PC Card slots and will let users plug in dial-up or cellular modem cards and network interfaces, essentially allowing a worker access their desktops anywhere, says ViewSonic product manager David Feldman.

While it can be used as a "remote monitor," iSupply/Stanford director of monitor research Rhoda Alexander argues the AirPanel is more in the line of a thin-client device. "I expect most of the usage would be for Web-browsing due to the awkwardness of inputting significant amounts of data with a touchscreen" Alexander says.

Feldman disagrees, saying employees can use it to access and edit files and retrieve e-mail. "It has intelligence that allows you to cut the cord between your monitor and your PC," Feldman says.

Nevertheless, the AirPanel will have more processing capability than the typical monitor. It will have an Intel StromgArm processor running Windows CE.NEt, with 128 MB for SDRAM and 32 MB of Flash memory and embedded graphics components. In addition to running CE, it will have a Citrix ICA 6.0 and Microsoft's RDP client. The AirPanel can be configured for either peer-to-peer connectivity or client/server when utilizing a wireless LAN or VPN, Feldman notes.