Bigger, but not louder, is better in the home entertainment market when it comes to viewing area and Epson says resellers should see this clearly.

Data/video projectors are moving out of the boardrooms and into living rooms according to a recent report by Mountain View, Calif-based Pacific Media Associates. Pacific president Bill Coggshall says the North American home market is about 20,000 units, but should grow to 80,000 by 2005.

The key to this growth is the transformation of the concept of the home theatre (a room used for TV related activities) to the home entertainment centre. Coggshall says people want projectors to do more than process TV signals. Potential users want something that can be used with PCs and laptops for games, Web surfing and digital photography.

Tanya Raad, accountant manager for audio visual channel for Epson in Canada, agrees the market is growing, but the price is proving prohibitive for many. (Epson’s home models, the PowerLite 50c and 70c, have a MSRP of about US$4,999, and US$6,999 respectively.) Coggshall says he believes the magic price point is around US$1,000.

While the price remains out of reach for many, this proves to be an advantage for resellers.

“We’re charting about 35 to 40 per cent growth year-over-year in units, and another interesting aspect to that is is that the pricing hasn’t eroded as quickly as some as the other high-tech items may have,” says Epson spokesperson Don Cameron.

“The margins on a product of that price description are excellent. The unit is essentially a plug-and-play device, so the amount of support required for most users is going to be very low.”

Projectors could face competition from plasma displays in the war to capture hearts and eyes. Coggshall says consumers are more intrigued by plasma displays, but the price has been a major stumbling block to wide adoption. Once the price drops, however, picture quality and the challenge of mounting them will be significant issues.

Tanya Raad, accountant manager for the audio visual channel at Epson, says she doesn’t believe plasma poses much of a threat citing the price (more than $20,000 for some models) and life span advantages of projectors.

“The maximum life you’re going to get out of a plasma is about three years because that’s the life of the screen, or the life of the gas,” says Raad. “The problem is it’s not like a projector where you can change a bulb and it keeps going.”

Jennifer Litten, product manager with the presentation products group at Walnut, Calif.-based Viewsonic Corp., says she has also seen an increase in the number of projectors used at home. She says business users are becoming more familiar with the devices and using them at home.

“Right now people are primarily adapting what’s typically still used for business applications to the home environment, and I think more and more we’re going to start seeing more specific home entertainment projectors coming out in the not too distant future,” says Litten.

But before projectors dominate the home market, Litten says fan noise produced by the devices will have to drop to 28-30 decibels and to under US$2,000.

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