IBM rethinks flat-panel display

Big Blue unveils its first model in a new line of ThinkVision flat-panel displays. Think: 20.1-inch screen, 1,600-by-1,200-pixel resolution and a design to make it easier to use.

John G. Spooner Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Spooner
covers the PC market, chips and automotive technology.
John G. Spooner
3 min read
IBM on Tuesday unveiled its first model in a new line of ThinkVision flat-panel displays, which it plans to debut later this year.

The new display, dubbed IBM ThinkVision L200P, offers a 20.1-inch screen and a UXGA, or 1,600-by-1,200-pixel, resolution.

IBM's new ThinkVision display brand is part of a larger computer redesign under way at IBM, with which the company intends to meld its hardware with its new "Think" way of working.

IBM devised Think as a way to apply its vast research and development efforts in ways that make its computers easier to use or more functional for customers. The strategy was first discussed at an event in New York last November.

At $1,349, the new ThinkVision panel is similar in size and price to those of competitors, but the company added some new Think-like features it says will make its display easier to use.

The display includes a stand that can be raised or lowered about 3.2 inches to adjust to different peoples' heights. It also includes an auto setup feature and a simplified on-screen control panel, designed to allow people to more easily set parameters such as brightness. The display can also work with more than one computer simultaneously, moving back and forth between them. It supports both digital and analog interfaces, and includes the required cables to make a connection with a PC.

"Part of our ThinkVision plan is to make the user experience better through design," said Mickey Mantiply, product marketing manager for flat-panel displays at IBM. "It's more intuitive on what you need to do to adjust the monitor, and you don't get lost."

IBM expects companies will purchase the ThinkVision L200P to go with top-of-the-line desktops or workstations used for tasks such as graphical design.

Displaying the market
The company plans to offer some of the same features found in the L200P throughout its line of ThinkVision flat panels, which will debut over the course of the year.

IBM offers flat-panel displays as large as 22.2 inches. But Mantiply says smaller-sized panels will make up the bulk of flat panels that IBM and others should expect to sell this year.

Manufacturers such as IBM as well as analysts predict that 2003 will see an increase in flat-panel adoption as the availability and prices of flat panels remain good. Though 15-inch models make up the bulk of today's market for flat-panel displays, 17-inch models should gain in popularity this year. But, overall, prices aren't expected to fall as quickly during 2003 as they did during 2002 because of tighter manufacturing capacity.

IBM sells 15-inch and 17-inch displays, starting at $399 and $579, respectively. And 17-inch panels are gaining in popularity, it finds.

Most consumers and businesses currently have 17-inch CRT monitors, but "with a 17-inch flat panel, you're getting more data on the screen in a larger area," Mantiply said.

While they are still more expensive, flat panels offer more viewable area than the CRTs they replace. While a flat-panel display is named for the actual size of its screen, a CRT is named for its overall size, which includes the width of the bezel that surrounds its screen. This is the reason that 17-inch flat-panel displays can tout a 17-inch screen, but 17-inch CRTs can offer only 15.8 inches or 16 inches of viewable area.

The new 20.1-inch display fills a hole in IBM's product line. Previously, the company did not have an alternative flat-panel display to offer customers of 21-inch CRT monitors.

IBM and other companies expect flat panels to gravitate toward the same sizes that are popular with CRTs. Most CRTs sold are 15-inch, 17-inch, 19-inch or 21-inch sizes. As a result, most companies expect that 15-inch, 17-inch and 19-inch flat panels will be the most popular sizes in the market over time.