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Flat Screens Eye Fat Sales

With the flat screen monitor category in a boom-mode this year, IBM and NEC Technologies are duking it out for market share.

Both IBM and NEC Corp. unit NEC Technologies have a strong presence at the Securities Industry Association's Technology Management Conference & Exhibit at the New York Hilton - not only at their own booths, but from companies choosing the futuristic look of the flat screens to display financial products.

"Only about 10 percent of Wall Street uses flat panel monitors, so there's still a lot more room for growth," said Alan Petersburg, managing director of visual products for IBM.

Flat panel sales totaled about 22,000 in the first quarter of the year, according to research firm Stanford Resources Inc. of San Jose . That compares to about 7.6 million cathode ray tube monitors sold each quarter in the U.S.

Next year, about 110,000 flat screen monitors will sell in the first quarter, a fivefold increase over the first quarter of this year, Stanford predicts.

Flat-panel displays - larger versions of the crystal-based screens in IBM ThinkPads and other laptop computers - consume less energy than traditional, cathode ray tube monitors. They give off less heat and thus save money on air conditioning. They're easier on the eyes because they don't flicker. Flat screens better fit into cramped trading areas, and can be mounted on swivels for more flexible viewing.

Although flat screens have been on the market for years, prices have come down within reach of most computer buyers only within the last few months.

The average price of a 14-inch flat screen dipped to $1,670 from $2,285 in the first quarter; and could go as low as $895 by the end of the year, according to Stanford.

"A lot has happened to allow us to offer better technology at lower prices," said Chris Connery, product manager, LCD monitors for NEC Technologies, based in Itasca, Ill.

Both IBM and NEC Technologies point out their big ticket customers. Reuters and Bridge use IBM. NASDAQ has roughly 200 NEC Technology monitors in its Connecticut control center, Connery said.

Both companies are courting the New York Stock Exchange and others as trading floors modernize, move, or consolidate.
Both companies are slugging it out with fresh ad campaigns. New NEC Technology print ads by Boston agency Hill Holiday say, "In a crowded trading room, there's little room for error, let alone a big ol' monitor."

IBM print ads breaking in July by agency Ogilvy & Mather, N.Y., will feature little more than a photo of a flat screen monitor and a Web address to find out more about it.

"A large part of the appeal is the flat panel look," said IBM's Petersburg.

The first quarter of the this year marked the first time industry groups released detailed studies of the flat screen market.

NEC Technologies grabbed a 34 percent of the LCD monitor market in the first quarter, according to sales statistics from TFC.NET Corp., pulished by DisplaySearch.
Stanford Resources Inc., by contrast, says IBM, NEC Technologies and Compaq each grabbed about a 20 percent share, with IBM showing a slight lead over NEC Technologies.

Written by Steve Gelsi, CBS MarketWatch

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