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Display market in flux

Dell, Compaq, and HP introduce new products and price cuts, but Dell simultaneously is advising customers that some high-end notebooks will be delayed because of shortages.

The display market appears to be in a state of flux, as manufacturers are cutting prices and announcing new products despite a supply crunch.

Today, for instance, Dell introduced "virtually flat" desktop displays made with Sony technology. At the same time, the PC manufacturer is advising customers that some high-end notebooks will be delayed by up to one month because of shortages in displays.

Dell is telling customers to expect delays of up to 25 days for Latitude and Inspiron notebooks with 13.3-inch and 14.1-inch displays, a company spokesman confirmed. The holdup is part of an "industry-wide" shortage, he said.

Meanwhile, Compaq Computer and Hewlett-Packard dropped prices on both so-called flat-panel monitors and traditional cathode ray tube (CRT) displays for desktops.

The conflicting moves reflect overall turmoil in the display market, where prices have been going steadily up over the last year thanks to widespread shortages. Direct manufacturers like Dell can be especially hard hit, analysts say, because they forecast their component demands more frequently than traditional manufacturers, and thus are affected more by surprise shortages.

In fact, the display shortages have been affecting notebook manufacturers all year, said Sweta Dash, a senior market analyst at Stanford Resources, who predicts that the market should regain its balance by the middle of next year.

"This is the first time I've heard anyone say they have a delay [in shipping computers]-- it's been a tight supply for a long time but manufacturers have still been getting them," she said. "We expect it will get better by the end of next year."

Also today, Dell said later this year it will introduce 19- and 21-inch flat-panel CRT displays. Based on Sony's Trinitron technology, the monitors are said to improve resolution compared with standard CRT models.

Separately, Compaq said it is discounting both its flat-panel and CRT displays by up to 15 percent, reducing its TFT5000 flat panel display to $1,269. HP dropped prices by 10 percent across its line of entry-level monitors, while introducing a new 17-inch monitor.

The seeming display market schizophrenia--which results in some companies cutting prices on some displays while others can't get their hands on any at all--is probably a result of some manufacturers absorbing losses on the components, Dash said.

"It's more a competitive move than anything else," she said. "For many suppliers, other component prices have gone down, so they are just absorbing the cost and not sending it to the customer."

Other manufacturers are reacting to the chaos in the display market by taking matters into their own hands. Last month, Apple Computer announced it will invest $100 million in Samsung semiconductor to expand its flat-panel display production capacity.