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Tech Industry

Monitor prices falling

Compaq introduces a flat panel and two conventional monitors, illustrating that the industry's big change may be coming in the latter segment.

Compaq Computer (CPQ) introduced a 14.5-inch flat panel monitor for $1,599 and also two 17-inch cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors for under $650, a move that reflects declining prices in both segments of the monitor industry.

As predicted, flat panel prices have been falling in 1998, but reductions in the cost of conventional desktop monitors have been at least as prominent. Thus while the new age screens are inching closer to the budgetary limits of average technology purchasers, larger 17-inch CRTs are beginning to supplant 15-inch models as the desktop standard larger.

Oversupply is causing the decline of CRT prices, as manufacturers in South Korea and China have ramped up production. As in the memory market, the result is a boon for consumers but tortuous for manufacturers. Flat panel monitors are declining as a result of the technology's increasing maturity, as manufacturers refines their production processes.

Flat panel monitors weigh less, take up much less space, and consume about one-third the power of CRTs. Also known as LCD screens, they are used for notebook PCs in sizes ranging from 8 to 13.3 inches, but they are not often found on desktops because of their price.

Analysts expect 14-inch flat panel prices could drop as low as $1,100 this year, still too expensive to displace CRTs but enough to increase growth in niche markets.

Meanwhile CRTs cost less than ever before, and as a result, expensive monitors the next size up have become affordable. "CRTs are clearly in commodity status," said David Mentley, vice president of Stanford Resources. Compaq's TFT450 offers a 14.5-inch viewable screen and a 1024-by-768-pixel resolution. The device uses a standard VGA connection, making it "plug-and-play" in standard PCs.

Compaq's P75 monitor is priced at $649, while its V75 model goes for an estimated $529. Both support 1280-by-1024-pixel resolution.

The TFT is immediately available, while Compaq's CRT models will be ready in March.