NEC Display Solutions held its annual Display Trends Forum in Cannes this year. Now in its fifth year, the event brings around 100 of the company’s top distribution and VAR partners in EMEA together to look at trends, network and NEC’s latest products. Our Managing Editor, Bob Raikes, attended as a guest speaker, so we have included a brief report. It was a very European event, with people from all over the region (and MEA). It was said that NEC DS is actually responsible for 18% of all the overseas business in the whole of NEC. The European group of the company accounts for 40% of the global NEC DS turnover.
NEC’s European Head, Bernd Eberhardt, is very proud of the development of the event and he said that some of the industry mergers were brokered at the event, as it is an opportunity for companies in different countries to meet their counterparts in other regions.
NEC is very proud of its wide range of display solutions. It is the only supplier that can go from the desktop to LEDs via LFDs and projectors. The main theme of the event was cinema and its opportunities – appropriate in Cannes – and guest speakers included an executive, Andrew Edge, from Odeon Cinemas in the UK, who gave a talk about the huge range of opportunities for the use of digital signage and electronic displays in extending the cinema experience beyond just watching the film itself. There are opportunities outside the cinema, in the foyer, in concession areas and even in the corridors between the foyer and the screens. He has lots of ideas for using digital signage, but he needs to be able to work out how to pay for it. For example, his print posters come from the film distributors, so they cost him nothing.
The cinema business is a conservative environment and Edge said that he had learned a lot about how conservative the cinema market is. It took longer than he expected for the market to accept digitalisation (4 years to the first sale and that was for post-production, not for a cinema) and, in the end, it was financial help by movie studios that helped to get the market moving. NEC did well out of the first stage of digitalisation, but that wave is over. (We heard at the event that theatre owners that had embraced digital technology when Avatar came out, did very, very well out of being able to show S3D). 93.7% of cinemas in Europe now have digital projectors.
The next wave of digital cinema is a switch to laser projectors but it will take a number of years to come to a peak because of the relatively high price of the new projectors. However, NEC has three models of digital cinema projectors that are certified for digital cinema.
Projection has been doing better than anyone expected. There were lots of forecasts of a poor 2014 for projection, based on high existing penetration and difficult economic conditions, but to everyone’s surprise, the market hit an all time high for the first half of 2014. Turning to LFDs, NEC plans to boost its range and recover market share by ensuring that it can compete in entry level digital signage as well as at the high end, where it is already strong. The company also wants to boost its share of desktop monitors.
Over the last couple of years, NEC has significantly revised its partner programme and now has 240 direct accounts (down from around 400 18 months ago). The company has certified 500 indirect resellers (who are customers for many of the distributors at the event) and plans to significantly increase this number.
Workshops Cover Digital Signage, Meetings and UltraHD.
On the second morning, there were a series of events based on digital signage, meeting rooms and touch displays (under the “Work Smarter” phrase) and UltraHD. The digital signage section covered lots of information about markets. Particularly highlighted were retail, Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs), cinemas and museums. In QSRs, NEC US has had great success and the company said that 16 of the top 20 QSR chains in the US use NEC displays, and there are more than 75,000 of the companies displays used. That is a big advantage as the same chains start to roll out the technology.
As we mentioned earlier, NEC is planning to win back some market share in the large format market and has a new “E” Series of monitors based on 16/7 panels but with many of the features of the commercial products. Features include Widi/Miracast wireless connections, ambient light sensors, RS232/LAN control and DisplayNote user licences. (NEC is stopping its eBeam software to concentrate on DisplayNote.) The monitors also have a zoom feature that may make detailed data more easy to read, and will support use in meeting rooms. 70″ and 80″ models will arrive in early 2015, the 90″ early in Q2.
The meeting room section was very interesting. We reported on the use of ShadowSense technology (from Baanto) that was being shown by U Touch, NEC’s touch partner in Europe, at the NEC showcase in London. At the Cannes event, the company highlighted the advantages of the ShadowSense technology compared to camera-based and infrared touch. Particular advantages include the lack of influence from ambient light and the ability to define different devices for touch, drawing and erasing. For example, because the technology can distinguish the width of different objects used on the screen (and this can be fine tuned manually), it can distinguish between a finger used for touch, a stylus used for annotation and a block used as an eraser. The P553-SST is already available from the company and other sizes will be the 40″ P403 SST, 46″ P463 SST, 55″ P553 SST, 70″ P703 SST and 80″ P801 SST. These models have identical specifications to the non-touch versions (Display Monitor Vol 20 No 43). The 40″, 46″ and 55″ displays will be launched by the end of October; the 70″ and 80″ models will follow later in the year.
Projectors Increasing DLP Usage
NEC’s M1 series of LCD projectors has been a best seller and at the beginning of the year the company announced the first models in the M2 series. These use DLP imagers rather than LCD and, after highlighting the benefits of LCD for a long time, NEC is having to work to persuade its customers that DLP is better. There was an interesting comparison of an M1 projector, an M2 and a SpectraView colour reference monitor. While the M1 clearly seemed brighter, the colours of the M2 seemed more accurate and the better contrast ratio (quoted at 10,000:1 compared to 2,000:1) made images involving text much more legible.
There are two new models that we haven’t reported before, the M402X and M362X, which have the same specifications as the M322X, but more brightness at 4,000 and 3,600 Ansi lumens, respectively. There will be more FullHD models next year as this resolution is really taking over much of the market now.
One of the key reasons for choosing DLP was the possibility of building a sealed optical engine, which was not possible with LCD. The company highlighted that a factor in the decision to move to DLP is that almost every projector with solid state lighting is using DLP. Solid state projectors are not making big inroads into the lamp-based market at the moment, but eventually, mercury lamps are likely to be made illegal, so solid state light sources will prevail, giving DLP an advantage. NEC also pointed to market data that showed that DLP has really increased its share against LCD in the mainstream market over the last two years.
NEC started shipping discrete LED modules in 6mm and above a while ago, At the event, there was lots of discussion of the prospects for small pitch LEDs. Although no product was announced, it seems reasonable to assume from the comments made that such LED modules will be arriving before long!
Finally, there was a presentation on UltraHD from Dr Rainer Sch