LCD monitor market grew in 2009 despite recession

Unit shipments of LCD monitors increased by 3.8 per cent in 2009, a far better result than vendors expected in the dark days of January 2009, according to iSuppli.

Global LCD monitor shipments rose to 176.5 million units in 2009, up from 170.1 million in 2008, as presented in the attached figure. The rise in numbers was in marked contrast to a 15.9 per cent plunge in the shipments of desktop PCs for the year.

“Some of the growth in LCD monitors is attributable to cannibalisation of the remaining CRT monitor base as well as to cutthroat pricing,” said Rhoda Alexander, director of monitors and sustainable displays at iSuppli. “However, innovation also played a major role in spurring an increase, with vendors reinventing monitor products and luring users by offering something a little bit different.”

Innovation will become more critical in 2010 and beyond, added Alexander, as vendors strive to hitch their monitors to a portion of the runaway mobile PC growth while still serving their traditional base—the desktop computer users. In its forecast, iSuppli reckons LCD monitor shipments will grow to 211.5 million units by 2013, rising at an annual growth rate of 4.5 per cent from 2008.

Given that businesses reduced headcount and slashed equipment expenditures as part of their overall cost-cutting efforts, consumer demand was actually stronger than corporate demand for monitors through most of the downturn.  The mix is shifting, however, from 2010 on, with business customers expected to play an increasingly important role.
According to Alexander, three primary drivers will play a factor in monitor growth in business markets moving forward: improved connectivity, job growth and operating-system shifts.

On the connectivity front, the growing use of multiple displays in business environments is playing a significant role, particularly for mobile users, who frequently utilise a secondary display in a desktop setting.  To date, most of the secondary usage has been accomplished through a straight connection to available VGA, DVI or USB ports on the system or through a docking station. The USB option and DisplayPort 1.2 have the benefit of allowing users to daisy chain one monitor to another, avoiding the limitations of available ports on the PC. In addition, DisplayPort 1.2 is expected to take a significant role in driving multiple monitor usage in corporate environments, particularly for mobile platforms.

As a second driving factor for monitor growth, the recovery of job markets—albeit slowly— means that monitors will be an increasingly important part of total system purchases for new hires who require additional equipment. Already, Asian markets have started to increase hiring, with North America expected to follow later this year or early 2011, and Europe expected to turn the tide within the next two years.

A third area of growth for monitors lies with the introduction of new operating systems, which tend to drive new equipment purchases for systems and monitors alike. Although monitor vendors were disappointed by the abysmal adoption rates of Microsoft’s Vista in the corporate market, the adoption path for Windows 7 appears more promising.

The consumer market will also see changes. “Expect to see a flurry of 3-D offerings in 2010, as monitor vendors capitalise on the 3D growth opportunity,” said Alexander. “Monitors, with their overall lower cost point, offer a more affordable initial 3D experience for many users than a large-screen TV. With expanding 3D game choices, a 3D monitor is likely to be one of the ‘must have’ holiday gifts of 2010.”

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