LCD monitor prices 'to stabilise in 2003'

Prices of LCD monitors are likely to stablise by mid-2003, and could even rise, according to a major manufacturer as it prepares to roll out a new range

Prices of flat-panel monitors are likely to continue dropping through the first half of 2003, but stabilise by mid-year, according to NEC/Mitsubishi, one of the biggest manufacturers in the UK of LCD monitors.

Speaking in London on Tuesday at the launch of nine new NEC/Mitsubishi LCD monitors, general manager John McGrath said he expects a recovery in the notebook market to soak up a lot of the over-supply next summer.

"Prices of 15 inch monitors have come down substantially," said McGrath. "When demand for notebooks gets weak, LCDs are routed to the monitor market, and the monitors get cheaper... the market is being used as an outlet" said McGrath. But, he added, "Some panel makers are hurting to the point where they can't afford to go on. I expect prices to stabilise by the summer -- there could even be a shortage by then, which could push prices up marginally."

Although LCD monitor prices have fallen for much of 2002, NEC/Mitsubishi's 15-inch displays underwent a price hike at the beginning of the year when the typical street price rose form about £290 to £310, according to the company's own figures. The typical street price is currently just under £280, while for some brands such as Samsung and Philips, it is closer to £240.

Like many other monitor manufacturers, NEC/Mitsubishi is turning its attention to LCD technology because prices of CRT monitors have dropped so far that there is no more value to be extracted from 15-inch and 17-inch products; they have become commodity items.

CRT monitors are also losing popularity both among manufacturers and buyers as governments worldwide are preparing new environmental laws that will increase further obligations to recycle computer equipment. CRT monitors, with their high lead content, are both difficult to dispose of in an environmentally friendly fashion and to recycle.

By mid-2004, sales of LCD monitors are expected to surpass those of CRT monitors, said McGrath.

"The shear volumes that will ship will make the whole market much more efficient," he said. However, said McGrath, there will continue to be demand for CRTs even if, as is expected, demand for bog standard 17-inch models sees a rapid demise.

"CRT will still be used for colour work, and there will still be a market for large CRTs -- 22inches."

Indeed, NEC/Mitsubishi is not taking it eye off the CRT market; the company revamped its entire range over the past three months with the ClearFlat and SuperBright Diamondtron models.

NEC/Mitsubishi's new LCD range includes models with analogue interfaces for the soho (small office/home office) sector, and models with digital and analogue interfaces aimed at business users.

Prices start at £229 ex VAT for 15-inch models and £599 for 18-inch models. The 19-inch LCD1920NX costs £659 and the 20-inch £LCD2080UX will cost £1,199 when it ships at the end of December.

Three 17-inch models are to launch, with the speaker-equipped multimedia LCD1760VM costing £399 when it ships at the end of December, the thin-bezel LCD1760NX costing £375 due in January. Pricing has yet to be set for the low-end, analogue interface-only LCD1701, which is also due to ship in January. A 30inch display, the LCD3000, tops off the range at £2,697. A 40-inch model is due in February.

McGrath said he expects the new range to help boost the company's prducts among home soho (small office/home office) buyers -- a market on which the company has not previously concentrated.

In November the company began selling for the first time through a retail store when PC World began stocking the 15-inch LCD1511M and the 17-inch LCD1711M - priced respectively at £279 and 429 inc VAT.

According to market research firm Brian Norris Associates, NEC/Mitsubishi was responsible for 12 percent of the 236,000 branded TFT displays shipped in the UK during the third quarter of 2003. LG came second, with 11 percent of the market by unit shipments. By value, NEC/Mitsubishi had a larger lead, with 19 percent of the market compared to Philips in second place with 12 percent and Sony in third with 10 percent.

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