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I want my LCD

Shipments of LCD televisions soared in the first quarter, but sales of computer monitors took a dive.

Consumers want their LCD TVs, but they're less gung ho for liquid crystal computer monitors.

In the first quarter of the year, worldwide shipments of liquid crystal display televisions grew to 1.6 million units, up 31 percent from the fourth quarter of 2003, according to a report Wednesday from researcher iSuppli. But unit sales to customers of LCD monitors for desktop and workstation computers dropped in the first quarter compared with the fourth quarter of 2003, iSuppli said in a study released earlier in the week.

LCD panels allow for thinner, lighter monitors and TVs compared with traditional cathode ray tube technology. CRT monitors and TVs, though, can be had for far less than their LCD counterparts. LCD panels were in short supply last year, and prices rose for LCD monitors.

One cause of the supply crunch was demand for LCD TVs. A number of computer makers have entered that arena, sparking additional competition. LCD TV sales in the first quarter were propelled by price declines, iSuppli said. "A strong push by suppliers is helping LCD TVs gain visibility as well as consumer acceptance and prime retail shelf space," the company added.

iSuppli expects "demand for LCD TVs to accelerate dramatically in 2004 and beyond due to the start of full-scale production of sets measuring 30-inches or more at new production facilities."

When it came to monitors, though, people were less eager to snap up LCD products in the first quarter. "This is a notable event," iSuppli analyst Rhoda Alexander wrote, "given that end-user demand growth for LCD monitors has proved remarkably resilient over the previous five years, rising every quarter--even when overall monitor demand was declining."

The biggest factor in the decrease in LCD monitor demand during the first quarter was a sharp drop in availability of 15-inch panels and monitors, Alexander said. "While some of that 15-inch LCD monitor demand migrated to 17-inch and larger LCD monitors, much of it went elsewhere, i.e., to CRT monitors," she wrote.