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Gateway prepares trio of LCD monitors

The PC maker will sell three sleek flat-panel displays as market pricing bottoms out.

PC maker Gateway will introduce a new line of liquid crystal display monitors as market pricing bottoms out for consumers.

Gateway will announce on Thursday three of its latest models, which feature easy-to-use display settings and an adjustable stand for additional viewing positions. The $209.99 15-inch FPD1560, the $299.99 17-inch FPD1760 and the $349.99 19-inch FPD1960 LCD monitors are currently available direct and through Gateway's retail partners, including Best Buy, Circuit City and CompUSA.

The new monitors are part of Gateway's effort to capitalize on the PC industry's move to LCDs.

"They make sense from a value-add point of view--new Gateway PC customers will want their monitors to match their PCs, and LCDs are what they are constantly looking for," said Kelly Odle, a Gateway spokeswoman.

Gateway ranks third behind Dell and Hewlett-Packard in the North American LCD monitor market. Dell is by far the leader with more than 30 percent market share, while Gateway has about 5.5 percent of the market, according to research firm iSuppli.

LCD monitors succeeded cathode ray tube monitors in the United States over a year ago, and analysts expect them to dominate in the desktop market over the coming years. In the first quarter of 2004, LCD monitors made up 54.4 percent of the market. In the first quarter of this year, that number grew to 73.2 percent. By the first quarter of next year, LCD monitors will reach 92 percent, according to iSuppli.

About 57 percent of the LCD market is made up of 17-inch monitors, while 15-inch LCD monitors comprise about 28 percent. Monitors with 19-inch LCDs had about 11.4 percent of the market in the fourth quarter of last year.

LCD television shipments are growing rapidly, as are those for plasma-based sets, but LCDs are still significantly more expensive than CRT sets, which limits their unit growth.

However, LCD monitors, which come in smaller sizes than LCD televisions and don't include TV components, are far less expensive. In fact, the traditionally volatile LCD market is at a low point, in terms of pricing, according to Rhoda Alexander, an iSuppli analyst.

"Pricing has bottomed out, and it's a relatively stable time to get a good price," Alexander said. How long that will last depends on oil prices and a panel shortage, which is expected to last through most of the second quarter and possibly ease in the third and fourth quarters. If oil prices go up, costs related to transportation and raw materials could go up as well, possibly affecting consumer prices.

Alexander said Gateway's prices for its new models weren't the lowest she has seen, but she's also seen higher prices.

The new Gateway models are aimed at the mainstream market, not the low end, and they are intended for consumers and small businesses.

Gateway is including patent-pending EzMenu on-screen display-setting technology, as well as analog and digital inputs, in the monitors. The monitors will also come with a removable base, making it easier for customers to mount the monitor. A $49 optional stand, the Ergotron Neo Flex LCD Stand, allows the height of the monitor to be adjusted up and down, swiveled left and right, and pivoted from landscape to portrait views.