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Display Of Affection

Microsoft's Windows Vista has sparked an explosion in wide-screen displays optimized for the operating system.

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Microsoft's Windows Vista has sparked an explosion in wide-screen displays optimized for the operating system.

Solution providers said the dramatic increase in video usage and extreme gaming powered by Vista are increasing the user appetite for wide-screen displays. What's more, VARs said the extra screen space is also boosting business productivity for users that need to manage multiple documents. Jim Melgard, vice president of sales for Hard Drives North West, a Bellevue, Wash.-based solution provider, said 22-inch wide-screen displays are the dominant products today vs. 17- and 19-inch standard displays a year ago. Melgard said he is even having success with ViewSonic's 28-inch wide-screen display optimized for Vista.

"People are using Vista for multimedia," he said. "Before, you had to buy Microsoft Media Center to get a lot of media features. Now that just comes with Windows Home Premium and Windows Ultimate [Edition]. Also, everyone is using better graphics cards and better graphics means better monitors."

Melgard said the 28-inch ViewSonic Vista-optimized monitors, with HDMI support for extreme gaming, have a street price of only $699 and are flying off the shelves. "They are on backorder," he said.

The new Vista Windows Aero interface, which runs on the Premium Edition or Business Edition of the operating system, is also driving wide-screen usage, Melgard added. He said that some business users and even consumers are running multiple displays.

ViewSonic Director of Desktop Displays Erik Willey said Vista is the first operating system designed specifically for wide-screen displays and that wide-screen displays are, in fact, recommended for it.

One of the big reasons for the wide-screen format is the new wave of high-definition DVD and BluRay media being used on Vista-based systems, he said.

All the ViewSonic Vista-optimized systems include High Definition Content Protection (HDCP), which is necessary to view HD DVD and BluRay in full-impact high-resolution mode, said Willey. "Microsoft recommends wide-screen because of the convergence of entertainment and traditional PC applications," he said. "When you see movies in high definition on these wide screens it's pretty dramatic."

Willey said Vista also paved the way for higher video resolution. Prior versions of Windows delivered smaller fonts with higher video resolution. The standard video display resolution, for the past 10 years, has been 1,280 x ,1025 for 19-inch displays. Walnut, Calif.-based ViewSonic's initial Vista displays offered 1,680 x 1,050 high-definition resolution.

Willey praised Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., for driving the Windows Vista Premium logo program to ensure the highest-level performance, reliability and stability for Vista displays. He said ViewSonic worked closely with Microsoft to deliver optimum performance with Vista.

The company moved aggressively from the outset to embrace the wide-screen format optimized for the high-definition DVD and BluRay, according to Willey. "Right now wide screen for the industry is running at about 25 percent to 30 percent of total shipments," he explained. "For us it's about 60 percent [of displays shipped]."

ViewSonic set the pace last year, ending 2006 at about 40 percent of displays shipped as wide screens compared with 10 percent for the industry, he said.

ViewSonic—and other vendors such as Samsung— jumped on the Vista bandwagon systems in January, unveiling a line of Vista Premium logo displays in line with Microsoft specifications to ensure they take advantage of the latest Windows Vista functionality. Among the ViewSonic innovations in January were wide-screen 20- and 22-inch LCDs that included the vendor's first bezel-mounted 1.3-megapixel Webcam and microphone.

ViewSonic just refreshed its Vista Premium Certified lineup with three new wide-screen LCDs, including two new 19-inch models and a new 22-inch model. Two of the models come with a groundbreaking contrast ratio of 4000:1. The new displays also come with enhanced light and dark image ability and reduced "light leakage"—which ViewSonic says improves visual performance up to four times vs. that of traditional contrast ratios.

The new ViewSonic 19-inch VX1932wm, which is priced at $249, will be available in October. Both the 19-inch VX1940w, which has a street price of $249, and the 22-inch VX2240W, which is priced at $349, will be available in November.

ViewSonic touts the VX1940w as the first 19-inch product with 1,680 x 1,050 high resolution.

Solution providers and industry executives predict an even bigger wide-screen explosion into corporations when Microsoft ships the first Windows Service Pack in first-quarter 2008.

"We expect to see double-digit growth rates next year in the [Vista display] enterprise space," Willey said. Many businesses have put off upgrading to Vista until Microsoft's release of the first Service Pack, which will address driver support, performance, and application incompatibility issues.

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