LCDs ready for large display market: BenQ

TAIPEI, Taiwan — BenQ along with other manufacturers are banking on LCD technology in the large display market.

Investments have been made to increase the size of LCD flat panel monitors beyond the current 30-inch standard

of today.

Over the last five years, BenQ has invested four per cent of its revenues in research and development, with plans for a further US$85 million in R&D by the end of this year. Samsung is making a 1.29 trillion Korean Won investment in LCD R&D. Even Sharp has said it will kick in US$230 million for LCD development.

Meanwhile, investment in plasma displays has dropped off. According to Hermit Huang, vice-president and general manager for networked displays at BenQ, the market for large size LCD displays is growing fast and outpacing plasma. He anticipates that plasma will still thrive in 60-inch display market and above, but anything less than 50 inches will be all LCD-based.

“”In two to three years plasma will move to 70 inches, but after that the investment will not be big enough and will slow down the technology’s improvement,”” Huang said.

He added that there would be a point where the return on investment for plasma displays will not be enough to grow that side of the business.

Plasma will still be practical for large signage in airports, trade show booths, department stores, and as billboards for public display, he said. However, in the home or office it will be strictly LCD because the brightness is improving rapidly and the power consumption is less on LCD flat panel than plasma displays.

“”(Plasma displays) are going away,”” Huang said. “”The investment is too expensive. The investment is in LCD. Three years from now (the plasma display) will be fine. But I can’t predict if it will die three years after that. It is very uncertain because of the lack of industry-wide investment,”” he said.

For BenQ, the LCD development will centre on IT and then spread out to consumer LCD TVs and mobile phone displays. There will also be a market for car displays and portable DVD player displays.

“”The 30- to 40-inch LCD flat panels market will be the standard for the large display market. Even 26-inch LCDs are very important and a high-growth area,”” he said.

BenQ released an LCD flat-panel monitor with a twist at the Computex show this year. Called the FP991, this 19-inch display can be turned 90 degrees.

About 40 per cent of BenQ’s TFT-LCD manufacturing is for the original design manufacturers (ODM) market.

“”People are always concerned with the ODMs, Huang said. “”Is there a conflict? It is less of a conflict that people think. PC vendors make and design the PC but they don’t design monitors. They have to get them from some other place. They what standard product line; nothing sophisticated. Brand-wise we do not provide additional value to the ODM displays.””

Another growing part of BenQ’s display business is with the white box builders, especially those system builders with customers concerned about image. “”They will leverage the component brand to increase their own brand. So white box builders take components with our brand for volume,”” Huang said.

In Taiwan, PC vendors do not include monitors on government bids. The white box builders do, however, and leverage BenQ peripherals in their government bids.

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