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IBM flat panel goes below $1,000 too

With the rollout of a $999 14-inch model IBM is aiming to expand its presence in the retail channel.

IBM is slashing prices on flat-panel desktop displays, bringing its lowest-priced product under the $1,000 price point for the first time.

Rival vendors such as NEC have already gone below that mark, and as prices continue dropping, competition for retail sales is heating up.

Flat panels, which are desktop versions of the thin screens found notebooks PCs, have traditionally been sold to high-end corporate customers. With the rollout of a $999 14-inch model, however, IBM is aiming to expand its presence in the retail channel.

"We were just in commercial channels, but we have started over the last month to get into retail channels," said Alan Petersburg, worldwide brand manager for IBM's visual products. "There's something magical about the $1,000 price point."

Once a luxury item for high-end medical and financial customers, flat panels are expected to gain steam in the coming years as they begin to approach the prices of traditional CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors. They're not soon likely to approach the 7.6 million CRT units sold each month in the United States, but falling under $1,000 price point is the beginning of mass adoption of the technology, say analysts.

"Crossing the $1,000 price point is significant as this figure represents a purchase barrier for many managers," noted a recent Stanford Resources' survey of U.S. PC monitor shipments.

According to the report, the average street price of a 14.1-inch screen is expected to fall from $1,299 in the second quarter of 1998 to $823 by the first quarter of 1999.

Flat panels will soon be differentiated less by price and more by quality, Petersburg said. "All of the flat-panel monitors have been very pricey, so the attention has been on price," he noted. "As it comes under the $1,000 barrier, there will be more focus on quality."

IBM's 14.1-inch 9514 XGA monitor falls 17 percent to $999. The 16.1-inch 9516 SXGA monitor has been discounted by 20 percent, from $2,499 to $1,999.