|alling prices have led small businesses to adopt flat-panel LCD monitors in ever-greater numbers, a trend that stands to continue over the coming year, solution providers said.
Monitor vendors, meanwhile, say they expect low prices for flat-panel displays to remain the norm during 2003, unlike the previous year, when flat-panel prices shot up by about 16 percent for some models because of shortages of LCD screens.
"Price absolutely makes a big difference," said Eryck Bredy, president of Bredy Network Management, a Woburn, Mass.-based solution provider. Given a choice between a $300 flat-panel display and a $100 CRT-based monitor, small-business customers will go for the LCDs, he said.
Small businesses that buy flat panels tend to put them in areas where people see them, such as on receptionists' desks, Bredy said. "That's why they like the black-colored models. They fit in with their Herman Miller chairs," he said.
Stephen Allen, president of New York-based solution provider Integrated Technology Systems, said 80 percent to 90 percent of the PCs his firm sells to small businesses come with flat-panel displays. "They're ubiquitous at this point. Clients find the extra desk space worth the $150 price difference," he said.
Integrated Technology Systems also has jumped on the LCD bandwagon. The solution provider has replaced all of its CRTs with flat panels and has seen a noticeable drop in monitor power consumption and heat emission since making the switch, Allen said. "The only negative [with LCDs] in the past was the price, but that's not an issue now," he said.
New LCD monitors unveiled at Fall Comdex feature thinner panels, brighter displays and lower prices, as well as enhancements such as 170-degree viewing screens and wall mounts. Monica Islas, product manager for monitors at Samsung, said rising sales volumes in LCD displays and new technologies have led to greater efficiencies, which in turn are continuing to drive down prices and open up more opportunities for small-business solution providers.
Samsung recently introduced the 15-inch SyncMaster 151N and 19-inch SyncMaster 191N monitors with a narrow bezel. The 151N has a street price of $389, while the 191N,with a dot pitch of 0.294mm and a maximum resolution of 1,280 x 1,024,carries a street price of $999, Islas said. "This is a fifth-generation product line," she said. "[Samsung] can now cut more LCD panels from the same glass, so it can actually produce more and lower the cost."
For instance, two years ago, the average end-user price for a 15-inch LCD display was more than $1,000, but during 2002, prices dropped to around $599 and then to $399, Islas said. "Once it went to $399, the price has gone back and forth," she said. "Because we are a true manufacturer, we've been able to keep the same price." Seventeen-inch LCD displays also have experienced a sharp price drop over the past 12 months or so, from around $1,300 to the $700 range, Islas said. While the holiday season featured some especially sweet deals, prices should remain relatively stable in 2003, she said.
Nevertheless, other monitor vendors said there's still plenty of room for flat-panel prices to fall. Perry Scheerer, senior director of strategic sales and marketing at CTX, said entry-level 15-inch LCD monitors now sport street prices of about $300 but could drop to about $200 by late 2004. He also expects 19-inch LCD monitor prices to drop about 30 percent this year.
Grant Lao, sales director of the Peripherals Division at Acer America, said 17-inch monitors could fall to about $450 over the coming year, compared with about $500 now. By late 2003, those prices may dip below $400, Lao added.
The aura of affordability has kept the stream of new flat panels flowing. NEC-Mitsubishi Electronics Display unveiled a new line of seven NEC MultiSync LCD 60 Series monitors, including 15-inch, 17-inch and 18-inch models. Five of the models provide DVI-D digital and traditional 15-pin analog VGA connectors. The dual-input technology allows the monitors to connect simultaneously to digital video or standard VGA adapters as well as to two systems, such as a PC and a Macintosh. Most of the Series 60 models also include NEC's Rapid Response technology, which cuts response times to 30 milliseconds or less, said Chris Connery, director of product line management at NEC. "We've really been focusing on the core technology and making it even more of a no-brainer than it already is," Connery said. "That's what's at the heart of the intelligence of these monitors."
Some of NEC's new monitors became available last month, and a full rollout is expected by the end of this quarter. Prices range between $330 and $800.
BenQ also introduced new products at Comdex, including the FP591 15-inch flat panel. A new 17-inch LCD display is slated to be released in February, said Ralph Tang, president of the company. "[With the 17-inch model], we've added functions such as height adjustments and more input capabilities such as S-video and composite input," he said. Pricing for the 17-inch model likely would be slightly higher than the $350 to $400 price tag for the FP591 15-inch model, Tang said. The FP591 features built-in surround sound audio and can be ordered with options such as a TV tuner box and a digital photo frame device.
As of Comdex, CTX started shipping the S730, a 17-inch LCD monitor with a champagne color and silver buttons. The S730 carries a price tag of about $475, Scheerer said. CTX also introduced a new 19-inch flat panel and two other 17-inch models, which feature LCD panels using multidomain vertical alignment (MVA) technology. MVA splits the screen into sections that each contain LCD pixels facing multiple directions, giving the screen a viewing angle of up to 170 degrees, Scheerer said. The PV722i 17-inch monitor with MVA technology is priced at about $625, while a sister model with an additional USB hub and built-in speakers,the PV722e,costs an additional $10. The 19-inch P922e, which includes an integrated hub and audio, is priced at $899. All of the products are expected to ship in this month, Scheerer said.
Acer has refreshed its LCD monitor line with a new pedestal that can be removed for wall mounting, a slot for connecting a Kensington lock and a contrast ratio improved by more than 15 percent, Lao said. The new models include the AL532, a 15-inch monitor with a 120-degree viewing angle; the AL722, a 17-inch model; the AL922, a 19-inch model with a 170-degree viewing angle; and two new 15-inch units.
AOC Monitors took advantage of Comdex to showcase its new 19-inch flat panel. The LM914 comes with dual digital and analog inputs, as well as the Kensington security slot, for a price of about $749, said Gino Villaflor, product marketing manager at the Fremont, Calif.-based company. AOC introduced height-adjustment and swivel capabilities for its entire monitor line at Comdex, Villaflor added.
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