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Flat-panel display demand remains strong

Shipments of flat-panel displays continue skyrocketing, according to a new report, due in large part to increasing demand for notebooks and slimmer desktops.

Production and shipments of flat-panel displays skyrocketed during the past two years, boosted by demand for notebook PCs and fancier desktop computers, according to a new report.

Last year, production and shipments of flat-panel displays and the components used to make them increased sharply, along with demand for notebook and desktop PCs, according to the report from market research firm Display Search. The first half of 1999 saw that trend continuing, despite the fact that many PC makers have reported delays as they grapple with display shortages.

In 1998, liquid-crystal display (LCD) shipments hit 1.3 million units, accounting for about $1.6 billion in revenues, according to the report.

As notebook computers have dropped in price and become more accessible to a wider range of buyers, the displays used in those computers have become more in demand. At the same time, price drops in these flat screens have been such that many PC makers, such as Gateway and NEC, have begun offering streamlined desktop units featuring flat panels rather than typical bulky CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors.

That demand, however, has led to shortages, which has been exacerbated by events such as the earthquake in Taiwan. The display market is notoriously volatile, and even small shifts in inventory can have ripple effects throughout the PC market. Dell Computer, for example, has reported delays shipping some of its notebook products because of difficulties getting enough notebook displays.

Still, 1999 LCD shipments will likely be quite healthy. In the first half of the year, flat-screen shipments jumped 56 percent compared to the same period in 1998, to just over 2 million units worldwide. Revenues increased by 40 percent to $2.239 billion.

Among manufacturers, NEC is at the top of the list, with 21.1 percent of the market in 1998. Following NEC is Fujitsu with 10.7 percent and IBM with just under 6 percent of the market. NEC also took the lion's share of the revenue, with 18.1 percent of sales.