Suppliers of flat-panel and projection displays in the large-screen-TV (over 30in.) market believe they can dislodge the ubiquitous CRT. They are spending billions to upgrade or build new plants to produce the large panels and display electronics for flat-screen or projection TVs they say provide better viewing than CRTs.
But in a market driven by low cost, CRTs are likely to continue holding a decided price advantage over competing technologies for at least a few more years.
A DisplaySearch study of the large-screen-TV market projects that shipments of large TVs will grow from
roughly 171 million in 2003 to more than 217 million in 2007. Though CRT TV sales are expected to grow more slowly than other display technologies, they will still account for the majority of large-screen sales in 2007, the research firm said.
Display suppliers like Matsushita, Philips, and Toshiba are consolidating CRT production in low-cost regions like China, while China's domestic suppliers are also penetrating the market. This is keeping CRT TVs at bargain prices. Most TVs of popular size--25, 27, 32, and 36 inches--are CRTs and list well below $1,000--one of several price thresholds some say a display technology needs to break to gain TV market acceptance.
Plasma and projection TVs, now priced at several thousand dollars and mostly over 40in. in size, may capture part of the market requiring a wall-hung screen or home theater capability. But unless these displays fall dramatically in price, they don't appear destined to become affordable for the average buyer.
LCDs look best positioned to penetrate the mass TV market, as fifth- and later-generation fabs are built capable of handling large glass substrates that make it possible to economically build TV panels. Sharp, LG.Philips, Samsung, and several Taiwanese suppliers are ramping up these fabs and expect the TV market to improve their margins as they shift production away from products like 15in. desktop monitor panels.
But LCD suppliers had better be careful. Technical issues have caused production delays for some, which becomes critical as competition intensifies. Also, suppliers had better make sure they balance their profit drive against the reality of the consumer TV market. Unless LCD TV panel prices come down soon enough so OEMs can sell, for instance, a 30in. LCD TV for under $1,000, suppliers will find payback on their investment elusive.
Stay tuned for the continuing saga of the large-screen-TV market. Meanwhile, I'm in no hurry to replace my 12-year-old, 20in. CRT TV.
E-mail comments to Spencer Chin at email@example.com.