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LCDs poised for prime time

Monitors with the flat-panel displays are on the verge of surpassing bulky CRT monitors, and color LCD screens for mobile phones also are poised to hit a milestone, according to new research.

That bulky computer monitor in front of you may soon give way to a svelte display, according to a new report.

This quarter marks the first time that sales of thin, LCD (liquid-crystal display) monitors will overtake those of traditional cathode-ray tube monitors on a unit basis in the United States, according to research released Wednesday by market tracker DisplaySearch. CRT monitors, typically much heavier and thicker than LCD monitors, have dominated desktops for years.

In another sign of LCD progress, shipments of color LCD screens for mobile phones will outstrip those of monochrome LCD screens this year, research firm iSuppli/Stanford Resources predicted Wednesday.

LCD technology allows for slender panels that can be used in products including digital cameras, notebook computers, desktop computer monitors and televisions.

Worldwide revenue for LCD panels is expected to reach $47 billion in 2004, up 32 percent from last year, according to earlier research from iSuppli. In 2003, the worldwide LCD market rose 27.9 percent to $35.7 billion, the firm said. The jump in revenue this year will be fueled by strong growth in the use of LCD panels in desktop monitors, notebook computers and televisions, which will spark demand for large-size thin-film transistor LCD panels, according to iSuppli.

Wednesday, DisplaySearch predicted that in the second quarter of this year, worldwide sales of LCD monitors will overtake those of CRT monitors for the first time on a unit basis. The firm also reported evidence of demand for larger flat-panel screens. It said 17-inch LCD monitors overtook 15-inch LCD monitors in volume in the United States in the third quarter of last year, with preliminary results indicating they became No. 1 worldwide in the fourth quarter.

Consumers worldwide are quickly adopting color-screen mobile phones, which often integrate digital still cameras, iSuppli/Stanford Resources said. Nearly the entire Japanese market has converted to color screens, and the percentage of usage is "surging" in Korea and Taiwan, according to the firm. Adoption of color cell phones in other regions, such as North America and Europe, is limited but growing fast, it said.

In 2004, color LCDs will account for 60 percent of mobile-phone display shipments, up from 48 percent last year, according to iSuppli/Stanford Resources. By 2007, the firm expects that color will dominate the market with 89 percent of shipments.

The number of displays is higher than the quantity of mobile phones actually shipped because of the large number of clamshell-design handsets that use two screens, the research firm said.

LCDs face competition from organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display technology, which offers the potential of thinner, less power-hungry displays.