When we started, we tracked 15″, 17″, 19″ and 20″/21″ CRT monitors – just four categories. I remember the discussions when we decided to expand that to five categories by splitting the 17″ category into 48KHz monitors (for 1024 x 768) and 64KHz monitors for 1280 x 1024. It seemed a big change.
When LCDs first arrived, there was not much choice, with most buyers taking 15″ or 17″ sets. Then 19″ came along and, in 2003, 85% of the market was buying 1280 x 1024 resolution displays, with the only choice being of 17″ or 19″. That was crazy, but the limited choice did mean that scale became very big, costs and prices came down and the LCD monitors drove out the CRTs. Although some more 16:10 and 16:9 aspect ratios were introduced, the main aim was cost reduction over the period from 2004 to around 2010.
However, by 2010, the growth in the market was gone as consumers started to buy tablets and smartphones rather than PCs and monitors to use as second TVs, and businesses hung onto the LCDs they had bought between 2003 and 2008. Without volume growth, it’s hard to even maintain values, let alone grow them and the panel makers really need to maintain or grow value if they are going to continue to invest in fabs.
The only solution, as we explained at the time, was innovation. It’s my long term view that providing you keep offering better value, most buyers of most products have a sense of “the right price” for a particular class of product. This obviously depends on the wealth of the individual and when they came into the market. However, I observed years ago that I typically spend around $1,500 on a computer. That’s more or less what I spent on my Apple ][ nearly 30 years ago and a bit less than I spent on my latest notebook, last December. Of course, there’s a vast difference in power, performance, reliability, portability and functionality (although I can’t type this article much faster than I could then!).
By delivering better products at the same price, vendors have a chance of maintaining ASPs and value and the monitor makers have been doing that much better in recent years.
From the four or five categories of the CRTs and the early LCDs, we are now tracking (and forecasting) more than twenty five categories and in early 2015, we will have to start to forecast and track three or four more. You can now buy LCD monitors in 4:3, 5:4, 16:9, 21:9 aspect ratios in almost every inch size from 15″ to 34″ and with resolutions from 1024 x 768 to UltraHD and beyond. Some of the new categories will be for curved monitors. I suspect we may get to 30 categories by early 2015.
(And we only categorise by size and resolution – it’s even more if we looked at more specialist variants such as calibrated colour, gaming, touch or medical monitors, for example, as well as core variations such as wide viewing angle VA/IPS compared to TN.)
This is a real challenge for market researchers like us, especially when it comes to forecasting. On the other hand, it is a real opportunity for set makers, vendors and the channel to up-sell buyers and persuade them to spend the same amount of money, but get something better for it.
The share of the value of the market taken by cheaper monitors (below €200) in Europe, the Middle East and Africa has even declined slightly over the last three years. Buyers seem to have understood that it’s worth spending that amount of money as they are going to get seven to ten years use out of a good modern monitor.
The challenge for the brands is to help channels, resellers and buyers to understand the real value of their innovations. This approach was standard practice in the days of CRTs, when there were very big differences between the best and worst brands in performance. Brands had skilled sales forces. However, the years of driving cost down has left the industry bruised and with too few capable of taking a positive approach to selling better products. I do believe, however, that there are real opportunities for those that can explain the value of the latest display innovations. – Bob Raikes