TFT displays, USB wait on market's response

As the big guns roll out two much-touted technologies, Compaq with external TFT screens on some Presario models and IBM with Universal Serial Bus (USB) on its new Aptivas, not everybody is convinced they are ready for prime-time.

"It's a tad expensive, isn't it?," said AST product marketing manager, Steve Crawley. "It's a nice idea but are UK users going to spend that much? Our links to Samsung made us consider it but this is a very, very price sensitive market."

Crawley added that LCD drawbacks such as screen size, problems in resolution switching, and difficulties in viewing screens in some highly-lit environments also counted against TFTs, and doubted whether Compaq has committed to selling a large number of TFT screen desktops. "They're tilting at windmills. This is a technology demonstration and if someone wants to buy them, great."

USB is certain to catch on much faster, with vendors including AST, Apricot and a host of others planning to ship units that support the peripheral connect standard inside the next two months. "It's the right time for USB," said AST's Crawley. "You have to have the ability to use the products before they're released. It's cheap to implement and there is an imperative for USB in the market."

Others are not so sanguine. One PC company spokesman who requested anonymity, said he expected incompatibility hassles for the first generation of USB ports and peripherals. "The spec has been a moving target," he said. "How can you build the perfect connect when you haven't got a solid reference design or any reference hardware... it makes no sense."

AST's Crawley believes, however, that USB will bed in via the traditional PC route. "Even in the least coherent first iteration of a standard - PCMCIA - a large majority of things worked. Early adopters are quite often prepared to put up with a few rough edges."

PCDN Comment: It's difficult to think of a comparable market, but try-before-you-sell is a mantra of the PC industry. User feedback will knock USB into shape and peripheral and PC makers will reap the benefits of a great deal of head scratching by the user community. As for TFT, it clearly isn't a value alternative to CRT except in some vertical markets. If Compaq has made many of these things, look out for them in the bargain bins six months hence.

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