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This year, solution providers said that in the display category, standard, single-panel desktop LCDs (19 inches to 24 inches) is the product most likely to see sales increases and offer the best profit opportunities in the next 12 months. Sales increases were also predicted for consumer-grade LCD TVs (32 inches or larger), despite recent research from the NPD Group's DisplaySearch arm suggesting overall LCD TV revenue would drop in 2009 year over year for the first time since LCD TVs were introduced in 2000.
The best opportunity to attach services, solution providers said, is in commercial-grade digital-signage displays 32 inches or greater.
Digital signage, on the whole, is going to get ever more sophisticated, from airports telling travelers realtime flight information and allowing them to order cabs based on revised scheduling, to advanced self-checkout counters at grocery stores. Education, health care and even houses of worship are also to keep an eye on--quite literally--signage opportunities, noted Ashley Flaska, VP of Marketing at NEC Display Solutions.
"It takes a lot of commitment to get into the signage industry," said Andy Teoh, product manager for digital signage at DT Research, San Jose, Calif. "You need to have the skill sets in networking and skill sets in audio/visual. LCD prices will continue to fall and be affordable. As long as you have a good VAR program in the space, you'll be strong when [the economy] starts to look up."
"Good program" means a commitment to innovation but also functionality, said ProActive's Wolfe, who works with a number of displays vendors but said he prefers NEC because of its ability to manage channel conflict and the breadth of its offerings.
As in last year's State of Technology: Peripherals survey, solution providers were less likely to recommend or sell brands that are considered nonchannel or nonchannel-friendly players. ViewSonic Corp. once again ruled the roost in terms of the brands VARs were extremely willing to sell or recommend, followed closely by Samsung Electronics, Sony Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Toshiba Corp.
"We're touching so many different verticals right now and we look to expand and strengthen each one," said Jeff Volpe, ViewSonic's vice president and general manager, North America. "Virtualization and 3-D are just two of the things enhancing new market opportunities. And in digital signage, everything from hospitality to public transportation and small retail spaces represents something where we can play a role."
Dell Inc.'s channel strength in displays and monitors is still a matter of opinion. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said they were not at all willing to recommend Dell displays, as opposed to 7 percent not at all willing to recommend ViewSonic. But Dell was right there at 30 percent alongside ViewSonic (30 percent), HP (29 percent) and Samsung (29 percent) in terms of the brands solution providers said they sold most often. Forty-three percent of solution providers queried said they saw the Dell brand as the least profitable opportunity among major display/monitor vendors, followed by Sony, Acer Inc. and HP.
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