Features

In with flat panels

With the younger generation beginning to use touch-screen computers ahead of enterprises, research firm Gartner is predicting that more than 50% of PCs purchased for users under the age of 15 will have touch-screens by 2015.

According to research firm Gartner, the immediate productivity gains promised by the flood of touch-enabled devices coming to market in 2010 will be slow to materialise in the enterprise.
 
"What we’re going to see is the younger generation beginning to use touch-screen computers ahead of enterprises," says Leslie Fiering, research VP at Gartner. "By 2015, we expect more than 50% of PCs purchased for users under the age of 15 will have touch-screens, up from fewer than 2% in 2009. On the other hand, we are predicting that fewer than 10% of PCs sold to enterprises in 2015 for mainstream knowledge workers will have touch-screens."
 
Fiering says that although touch and pen input are not new to the PC industry — both have been available, largely as niche products for vertical industry applications, for over 20 years — there is renewed interest in touch input today. Multi-touch on smartphones and the Apple iPhone phenomenon have shown users how useful touch can be with the right implementation, and Apple’s introduction of the larger iPad has set off a wave of speculation about changing the industry.
 
The earliest adopters of touch-enabled devices will be consumers who rarely deal with legacy issues. They will be looking for entertainment and casual gaming applications. Gartner predicts that iPhone and touch-enabled smartphone users will want to extend the multi-touch experience to their PC computing. iPad and the overwhelming majority of slate, tablet and touch-enabled convertible devices planned for 2010 will have a consumer focus.
 
Ali Mohd Akbar Khan, GM,Mars IT Distribution, Kingdom of Bahrain, concurs and goes on to say that the strength of the consumer markets in the Middle East has made the region a major target for flat panel televisions and displays (FPTV) vendors. Khan says with consumers buying FPTVs in record numbers, many vendors are reporting massive increases in sales and profitability. “Industry analyst firm IDC predicts that consumer anticipation for the introduction of high definition television (HDTV) broadcasting and next-generation DVD players are likely to spur growth in the Middle East FPTV market in the coming years.
 
Khan says as flat panel displays (FPD) have successfully entered the TV space, the industry is facing unprecedented dynamic changes, especially in the Middle East where acceptance of these products has been phenomenal. “The Middle East has great potential for FPD,” he says. “The potential comes from strong market growth like flat panel TVs, notebooks, LCD monitors, DSC and mobile phones.”
 
Brian Liu, VP sales – MEA & CIS, Central Asia, AOC, says the channel market for FPD in the region is getting competitive each day as all the major brands are aggressively increasing the market share, which leaves no room for local and second tier brands to survive in the Middle East. Liu believes the multinational brands in this region will continue to dominate the market and hopefully as from September this year spending will improve in the channel market in the region. “The potential for the FPD market is still there and the only thing that needs rebuilding is confidence in the channel,” he observes.
 
Liu believes the drop of prices on most FPD brands, while the performance and features of these products has continued to improve has definitely contributed to the FPD market in the Middle East to boom. He adds that with latest technology like LED, multi-touch and others that have been introduced on most FPD models, this has encouraged a lot of users to upgrade their current monitors or display panels to PFD.
 
Khan agrees and says, nowadays everyone has passion to use the latest technology and HD technology has come to be the most demanded offering in FPD market. He adds that because HD stands for high definition, this technology is being used to create sharpness and detail that has never been experienced in home entertainment and it’s more advance than LCD technology. “Recently, LED technology is the latest technology that has been added to displays panels and it is the next generation of LCD monitors,” he says.
 
Liu adds that HD 16:9 ratio displays are already main stream in majority of regions around the globe. He says that although some main regions like China also focus on 16:10, full HD will be the key direction that this market will take. “HD shall become one of the basic functions of any monitor bigger than 22-inches or even go down to 18.5 inches segment very soon,” Liu notes.
 
LCD technology convergence
 
Khan says strong worldwide consumer demand for LCD TVs, LCD monitors notebooks and a myriad of handheld personal communication devices is the most positive reason that has helped the commercial side of the FPD market. “Stylish, slim and compact with new design in LCD technology has more demands in market and this is the strong point for commercial people,” he says.
 
AOC’s Liu says with more attention on environmental protection today, there were two power saving backlight technologies that appeared a couple of years ago. These according to Liu were 2CCFL and LED technology. He explains that because of 50% energy saving is achieved on 2CCFL compared to 4CCFL, this has already become the mainstream technology, especially for smaller size LCD monitors.
 
Liu adds that LED is the “hottest” technology in the market today. At the same time, Liu points out that CRT is surely fading into the horizon. Currently, just some emerging markets are still taking little quantities of CRT such as India, Pakistan and many countries on the African continent.
Mars IT’s Khan agrees and says as of now CRT is an old technology. The IT industry and in particular the channel has embraced most advanced technologies like LCD, LED with HD and full HD, he says. “Consumer demand is low on CRT technology,” he says. “One day everyone will totally give-up on CRT monitors and embrace the new technology.”
 
Touch-screens
 
Khan says with touch screens being touted at the other alternative to the LCD and other flat panel displays currently on the market, most consumers are wishing to have their LCD/plasma screen with some touch screen functionality. He adds that this expanding market is creating new OEM account opportunities for touch screen suppliers. “With this rapid adoption, accelerated cost reduction associated with the new economies of scale, and sustained customer pull the technology is becoming a must have for the channel in the Middle East,” he says.
 
However, Liu has a divergent view on touch screen technology and its adoption in the Middle East. He believes the technology is still a few years away from being widely adopted both in the consumer and commercial space. “Multi-touch screen adoption at the moment is not wide spread and it will take some time before it becomes main stream,” he notes. “Nevertheless, for hand-held devices such as smart phones and pocket PCs, it will become the basic standard.”
 
Khan maintains that because touch screens are increasingly penetrating a broad range of industrial, commercial and consumer applications, the technology is rapidly becoming the preferred human machine interface. “The touch screen market has been growing at greater than 10% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). “While the largest application for touch screens has been mobile devices, the technology’s value propositions continue to create new opportunities for touch screen solution manufacturers in other solutions like monitors,” he says.
 
Lui says the Middle East market is not very keen yet to embrace touch screen technology and this can largely be attributed to lack of familiarisation with this solution offering. He adds that with training that will change.He emphasises that sales opportunities will only start to increase if higher specifications, bigger screens, multi-media plus more entertainment functions are integrated to solutions targeting home, game or SoHo users.
 
According to Liu, what this means is that channel partners in the Middle East will need to get ready to better understand touch-screen technology, its use and to support inquires from the market. Liu says they also have to work closely with branding companies in order to carry out smart and effective marketing campaign to stimulate demand and create their sales opportunities.
 
Video conferencing opportunity
 
With companies looking at cutting their own travel costs, video conferencing is now in demand. This is an area that presents huge opportunities for not only the FPD manufacturers but their channel partners as well.
 
Khan says digital convergence is indeed changing people’s lifestyles, and is opening many doors of opportunity for retailers, resellers and solution providers in the region. This convergence evolution is also causing major market upheaval and shift at the same time. “We have managed to stay ahead through an efficient distribution model,” he says.
 
He explains that under increasing pressure to innovate, the convergence of content and LCD technology is challenging the supply chain to determine how the new LCD system will evolve and come to fruition in channel industry. “We continue to see technology advancement in the global IT market, as new technologies being developed are aimed at making it easier for people to take advantage of the digital progression,” he says.
 
Khan admits that as a distributor of FDP, Mars IT has its own challenges as the pace at which technology is being developed and brought to the market is so rapid. “When more technology comes together with different options and features it becomes more challenging to learn. We are working with partners so that they can become more knowledgeable to sell and implement these solutions competently,” he says.
 
Liu adds that currently, video conferencing solutions are getting much popular due to sufficient bandwidth available. He says naturally, this requires bigger screen display like TVs to match the need of corporate organisations while at the same big monitor screens are also supporting the needs for SoHo users. “AOC has seen opportunities for display solutions increase in the video conferencing space,” he concludes.
 

Among the latest trends making monitors more favourable to the channel is a shift in demand towards higher-priced larger screens and LCD monitors, faster response times in larger-screen products, and the growing popularity of wide-screen and touch-screen monitors.

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