Tech Industry

Flat displays bigger, better

Flat-panel monitors from IBM, Samung, and others are sleek, appealing, and pricey--but the latter will change.

LAS VEGAS--Flat-panel displays are sleek, highly appealing, and quite pricey, but the latter aspect should begin to change over the next 12 to 18 months as 14- and 15-inch versions are produced in high volume and at lower cost.

IBM (IBM), Samsung, Mitsubishi, and others are showing 14- and 15-inch-class displays that can serve as elegant, lightweight desktop monitors.

Most of the displays, including those from IBM, Samsung, and Mitsubishi, are based on active-matrix liquid crystal display (LCD) technology, which is currently the standard for high-quality notebook LCD screens.

Samsung is showing a range of sizes from a 13.3-inch monitor all the way to 21.3-inch monitor. The smaller 13.3-inch and 14-inch class monitors should become available later this year or early next year in volume, according to Samsung officials.

No pricing was available from Samsung though the cost will probably start at well over $2,000 for a larger 15-inch-class display, which is expected to be the most popular size.

Mitsubishi is showing a 14-inch-class display which should go for as little as $1,500, said a Mitsubishi spokesperson. Mitsubishi?s larger 15-inch displays should be priced at about $2,000.

By comparison, ubiquitous CRT (cathode ray tube) desktop displays equivalent to a 15-inch LCD monitor in viewing area are priced starting at about $400.

IBM's new LCD monitors include a 16.1-inch display and one 14.5-inch LCD display for use in corporate environments where space is at a premium. Capable of 1280-by-1024-pixel resolution, IBM's flat panel displays take up about one-sixth the depth and boast an equivalent viewing area of a 17- or 19-inch desktop CRT.

However, they range in price from $2,795 for the smaller model and up to $4,595 for the 16.1-inch display.

According to IBM, CRT monitors consume three times as much power as flat panel monitors and weigh more. But despite their advantages, flat panel displays are not mainstream products even in the corporate market because they are more expensive to produce.

Some analysts at Stanford Resources expect pricing to drop dramatically in 1998 as vendors improve their manufacturing processes. Another research firm says that liquid crystal display screens used in notebooks and desktop monitors will be in short supply until early 1999. After that, a glut in the screens will drive down prices of these monitors.

The excess capacity would be the indirect result of a massive investment by Korean manufacturers like LG Semiconductor and Samsung. Analysts believe Samsung will become the world's largest producer of active matrix LCD displays by 1999, displacing the joint Toshiba and IBM manufacturing venture.

IBM's new flat panel display models will be available to existing reseller customers beginning November 21.