What do Australians want to watch: LCD or plasma?

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This article appeared in the 4 February 2008 issue of CRN magazine.

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What do Australians want to watch: LCD or plasma?
As the digital home continues its rise, so has demand for both LCD and plasma televisions in Australia.

IDC predicted that unit shipments of plasma and LCD televisions in Asia-Pacific would have surpassed 11 million last year. With 6.9 million shipped in 2006, 2007 would have presented year-on-year growth of 61 percent in the combined market. IDC found that in Australia, consumer sentiments towards LCDs brightened as the form factor’s picture quality improved and prices fell.

“Asia’s large installed base of traditional CRT televisions continue to make it a very attractive market for flat-panel television makers. Falling unit prices and the gradual transition to digital terrestrial television broadcasts will continue to encourage more owners of CRT TVs to upgrade,” said Nur Hayati Ali, market analyst of Asia-Pacific Personal Systems Research at IDC. “The upcoming 2008 Beijing Olympics is also expected to keep cash registers ringing this year. Given that the event will be held in China, interest and coverage from the rest of the Asia region is likely to be at its peak.”

Last year there were numerous reports that plasma screens were losing market share to LCD. CRN reported that due to the relentless increase in size and decrease in price of LCD display panels, they were proving a significant challenge to the plasma screen players. Until last year, plasma screens enjoyed a comfortable position at the top of the flatscreen TV market because the intrinsic brightness and large pixel size of the technology lends itself to large format screens of 50 inches or more.

So you don’t spend endless nights pondering the difference between LCD and plasma, LCD (Liquid Crystal Displays) is a flat panel technology which uses liquid crystals sandwiched between two glass plates. Plasma is a flat-panel display technology that ignites small pockets of gas to light phosphors. However, the science lesson aside, it’s never been more relevant to ask what the Australian market is adopting. We question our experts – LCD or plasma?

Ben Bowley
Director of business systems group, Panasonic:

2007 saw unprecedented growth across the flat panel market in both the consumer and commercial sectors. Panasonic markets both plasma and LCD technology and has experienced strong market performance for both its plasma and LCD product range.
Plasma continues to perform exceptionally well in large screen sizes. The fastest-growing plasma screen size in the consumer market is
50-inch, and the greatest area of growth is coming from Full HD.
Panasonic has been successful with its range of HD and Full HD commercial plasma panels, including 42-, 50-, 58-, 65- and 103-inch models – in particular for digital signage in the retail, pubs and clubs, transportation, tourism and corporate markets. This is due to their high quality and the growth in demand for dynamic big-screen signage.
These commercial-grade models offer the reliability, versatility and robustness needed for high-usage applications. The protective glass panel makes them suitable for installation in high-traffic public areas, and functions can also be disabled by the menu so the display cannot be altered by passers-by. Multi-screen configurations allow a single image to be enlarged across 16 displays to create a ‘video wall’.
In 2007, Panasonic Australia launched a 103-inch plasma, the world’s largest plasma panel. This Full High Definition Panel has become popular in the hospitality and entertainment market as a ‘super size’ display. The panel is being installed by Australian pubs and clubs, with the flexibility to screen not just entertainment, but also upcoming promotions, venue information and advertising with huge impact.

Gaba Cheng
Product manager for digital display, Acer:

Historically, the Australian market purchased plasma due to non competition. When the LCD television was introduced, plasma began to lose market share. Mostly this was due to the LCD TV’s lower price point which seemed to offer the same viewing experience as plasma.
Looking more recently in the last nine to 12 months, sales of plasma has been active again due to price drops and the introduction of higher specifications. During the same period LCD TVs have continued to fall in price. Therefore the market has seen intense competition between the two formats.
However, today, even with these fluctuations in demand, there can still be seen a sizeable market for both plasma and LCD televisions. Presently on the retail front, 50-inch and larger plasma TVs are moving more shipments as well as 42-inch and below in LCD. Both can be attributed
to price.
In a debate on which is better to own, there are a number of standout features in comparing the two. LCD size advantage which offers both large and small screens (42-inch and below), LCD price advantage for value: LCD TVs deliver more pixels for the same price and size screen, and in terms of power consumption LCD consumes 30–40 percent less power than an equivalent size plasma display.
In the future, I believe LCD will take the crown because of these advantages and as LCD TVs have further opportunities to decrease in price, become larger in screen size, and vendors such as Acer introduce more advanced technological features.
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