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Digital Signage - The Battle Between LCD and Plasma Panels Intensifies, and You're the Winner

David Little

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A couple of research organizations recently released reports concluding LCD technology is now taking the lead in its competition with plasma displays to become the dominant flat panel display technology and will secure its position as the clear winner within a decade.

Let me state for the record, I have no favorite in this battle. But as an observer with a strong interest in the development of the digital signage market, I can only conclude that whether or not the reports are accurate, the stage is set for a battle royale that will drive the cost of flat panel displays lower and make digital signage a realistic economic proposition for a greater number of businesses.

The first report comes from market research firm iSuppli. The report, “LG, Samsung SDI Boost Market Shares in Q1 PDP Arena, " finds that despite a tight supply of plasma display panels in the first quarter of the year, the average selling price for plasmas actually declined. That's not the way the law of supply and demand is supposed to work. Scarce supply with in a market with healthy demand should result in rising prices, not falling prices. What's going on here?

Simple, according to iSuppli. The average selling price of plasma display panels fell due to intense competition from LCD panels in both the consumer and the business markets, which include digital signage applications. The research firm forecasts this trend will lead to a startling state of affairs in which plasma panel-related revenues will shrink from an all-time-high next year of $10.2 billion to $8.7 billion by 2011. Compare those revenue numbers to iSuppli's forecasts of unit shipments. In 2006, 10 million plasma display panels were shipped. By 2011, that number will grow to 23.6 million units, yet annual revenue from their sale will be down by $1.5 billion. You don't have to be a math major to figure out that unit prices will fall dramatically.

The other market researcher is In-Stat. It recently conducted seven end-user studies in North America, Asia and Europe to determine where the digital television market is headed. Granted, the TV market is a slice of the overall display market, but it's a huge slice. The sheer size of the market has a significant impact on what display technologies get developed, which sizes become available and how much they cost.

According to In-Stat, LCD TVs will dominate the worldwide digital television market, racking up a 75 percent market share by 2011. The research firm also forecasts that plasma display panel TVs will account for only 15 percent of the overall market by then.

Just as the iSuppli research suggested unit prices will drop significantly for plasma display panels, the In-Stat findings suggest a pronounced decline in prices for digital TVs in general. The research firm forecasts that global unit shipments of DTVs will expand from 68 million last year to more than 144 million by 2011. However, pricing pressure will hold down revenues. In-Stat predicts DTV revenue will climb from $72 billion in 2006 to $76.7 billion in 2011 -less than a 5 percent increase on unit growth of more than 100 percent.

For business considering whether or not to spend resources on digital signage, these reports indicate the investment in the display portion of the equation is likely to be lower moving forward. Those savings can be used to better control and integrate those signs into the business's overall digital infrastructure, to expand the number of panels in the digital signage network, to secure creative digital signage content, or simply be used for other purposes.

While the news from the market research firms may not be welcome in the halls of flat panel display manufacturers, it's good new for business looking to elevate their communications through the use of digital signage.

David Little is a digital signage enthusiast with 20 years of experience helping professionals use technology to more effectively communicate their unique marketing messages. He is the director of marketing for Keywest Technology in Lenexa, KS, a software development company specializing in systems for digital signage creation, scheduling, management and playback. For further digital signage insight from Keywest Technology, download our Six Basic Digital Signage Applications white paper; subscribe to our digital signage RSS feed that gives a diverse perspective on digital signage from experts around the world; and sign up for our Keywest Update news brief.


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