LCD TV shipments worldwide have overtaken CRT TV shipments for the first time, according to a report by market research firm DisplaySearch. We’ve long predicted the eventual demise of the CRT, the only question being the timetable. We’re now seeing more evidence to plot out the future of flat screen displays.
After rising 56% from 2006 to 2007, LCD TV yearly sales now represent a record of more than 28.5 million units, or 47% of the world TV market. LCD unit share improved in every region worldwide, including Europe, which had the strongest growth of the fourth quarter. In addition, LCD is making strong gains over PDP and RPTV, with new larger LCD panel fabs producing larger screen sizes more cost effectively. LCD yearly share of larger-than 40-inch TVs grew from 44% to 65%, while PDP TV fell from 40% to 31%, and RPTV was down from 16% to 3%, according to the report. In total, global TV sales exceeded US$100B in 2007.
The change in market share for these technologies in the past year is astonishing.
Meanwhile, combined shipments of LCD and PDP TVs are expected to reach 96 million units in 2008, says the Japan Electronics & Information Technology Industries Association (JEITA), with demand being driven by the upcoming Beijing Olympics and the transition from analog to digital TV broadcasting. The association also predicts that global flat TV demand will more than double to 180 million units by 2012.
We can also expect widescreen displays to become more prevalent for both TVs and PCs. According to panel manufacturer AU Optronics (AUO), Toshiba’s recent relinquishment of the HD-DVD format will accelerate development of 16:9 IT panels, as downstream vendors supporting the Blu-ray Disc standard accelerate the rollout of compatible PC products.
And on the TV side, market research firm Pacific Media Associates reports that unit sales for flat panel HDTV televisions in North America grew by 27% in December over November’s sales, marking a seasonal sales surge for the end of the year. And PDP seems to be giving way to larger LCD screens, with LCD taking 50% of the larger 50" to 54" size segment, and PDP share dropping to 17% in December, its lowest point in the history of the firm’s data samples.
All of this data continues to point in the direction of waning CRT sales, for reasons of economy, weight, environment, and form factor. But it would appear that this acceleration in demand and share is not proportional to performance increase in the units; yes, we may have crossed a threshold in the acceptability of the artifacts still present in many flat panels (lag, contrast, color saturation), but these characteristics are still exceeded by most good CRTs. The irony of technological progress is that, with every major advance, there seems to be a step back in some areas, as if tradeoffs are always inherent. The danger is that consumers will be seduced by larger, cheaper displays of inferior performance. This should be our bid to insist that the improvements in economy and "glitz" don’t overtake those of good visual quality, which should be, after all, the primary function of an entertainment display.