Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Flat-screen prices may be nearing sweet spot

Filed under
Hardware

Bud Werner and his wife are longtime movie buffs. For more than a year, he pined for a flat-panel television, thrilled by 60-inch screens thin enough to hang on a wall and turn his living room into a mini-movie theater.

But he couldn't overcome sticker shock -- some flat panels were selling for as much as $20,000 at first, as much as a new car. Like a lot of fans of flat-panel TVs, Werner, who owns a sign-making business, held off buying.
Until now, that is.

Prices for flat panels have finally begun to tumble -- by as much as 35 percent in the past year -- as soaring demand for the two leading flat-panel technologies, plasma and liquid crystal display, or LCD, attracts a host of new competitors.

``I'm excited,'' said Werner, 54, whose patience was rewarded this month when he bought a 50-inch plasma television at Best Buy for $3,800. ``We already have the wall picked out where it's going to hang.''

Lesser-known brands, such as Westinghouse Electric Co., Regent USA's Maxent, Syntax Corp.'s Olevia and Norcent Micro Inc. are slashing prices to compete against more-established names like Sharp Corp. and Sony Corp., forcing them, in turn, to charge less.

Semiconductors and other TV components also are getting cheaper, and the industry continues to find ways to trim production costs.

Now, a 42-inch liquid crystal model retails for about $4,200 on average, and the same-sized high-definition plasma sells for around $2,900, said Riddhi Patel, senior analyst for iSuppli, a market research firm in El Segundo, Calif.

Still too expensive? Price-conscious consumers shouldn't worry, analysts say, as flat-panel prices have yet to bottom out.

Some major retail chains continue to charge a premium for plasma and liquid crystal sets, pocketing 25 percent profits on larger models, Patel said.

``There is plenty of room for retailers to squeeze more out of their profit margins and attract customers,'' she said.

Proof that flat-panel TVs is a boon for retailers can be found in their earnings statements. Best Buy Co. saw an 85 percent jump in first-quarter profits due in part to skyrocketing sales of flat-panel televisions, while struggling electronics retailer Circuit City Stores Inc. saw triple-digit increases.

Representatives for Best Buy, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corp., did not respond to requests for comment, while Bill Cimino of Circuit City refused to discuss profit margins, though he did say more price reductions are expected.

The price war, meanwhile, is taking a toll on flat-panel manufacturers. Sony blamed increased competition from Asian manufacturers who produce cheaper goods, including flat-panels TVs, when it reduced its full-year forecast by 90 percent. Last month, Sony, Toshiba Corp., and Hitachi Ltd. reported quarterly losses.

Some manufacturers have agreed to share risk and expense. Hitachi and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., the maker of Panasonic televisions, began jointly making LCD televisions in February, as did Sharp and Fujitsu Ltd.

Despite the competitive environment, the companies continue to invest heavily in flat panels knowing that once the market matures they stand to cash in.

About 20.8 million flat-panel TVs will be sold this year worldwide, almost double the 10.9 million units sold in 2004. Sales next year should rise 47 percent, iSuppli said.

Though CRTs have served consumers well for a half-century, flat panels are appealing because they take less space and can be hung on walls.

Misperception may also play a role.

When it comes to picture, most analysts say CRTs are just as good as flat panels, yet many consumers are under the assumption that flat panels are all high definition and thus offer better picture quality. In retail showrooms, flat panels typically display high-definition digital content, so they look superior to CRTs.

Consumers don't always know that some flat panels can't receive high definition, or that CRTs can be formatted to get such programming.

When it comes to performance among flat-panel makers, paying more doesn't necessarily mean a better picture, said Eric Haruki, an analyst for research firm IDC.

More than 90 percent of the world's LCD panels are supplied by five companies, so top-tier brands and generics often share the same components, according to Haruki.

``Some of these companies buy top-notch components from the big players and rebrand them,'' Haruki said. ``The technology is pretty good across the board.''

Greg Gudorf, Sony's vice president of television marketing, insists top-tier manufacturers have an expertise lesser-known brands can't match.

``What is their manufacturing expertise in processing video signals?'' Gudorf asked. ``That's where Sony's heritage comes in. We know how to make a picture look good.''

But James Li, chief executive of Syntax, argues that heritage is meaningless when it comes to new technology.

``We all entered the LCD era on the same playing field,'' he said. ``Everybody is working with the same technology. Consumers have already learned that the brand name is not the single most important factor in their purchase.''

There is just as much debate over whether to buy now or wait until prices drop further.

Patel is in the market for a new television, but she is waiting until after holiday shopping peaks. She said retailers are apt to offer their best deals then.

Russ Johnston, senior vice president of marketing for Pioneer Electronics Inc., agrees the cost-conscious can wait.

But for those who want the best TV experience in time for the upcoming football season and baseball playoffs, there's no better time to buy.

``If you look at August through November, those are the best TV months,'' Johnston said. ``Sports fans are going to invite people over and want to show off their new TV. They're done waiting.''

Associated Press

More in Tux Machines

today's leftovers

  • My Experiences Converting Users To GNU/Linux
    My wife, TLW, runs GNU/Linux with few problems. She uses a tablet, an Odroid-C2 ARMed thick client, and a big notebook all running Debian GNU/Linux or Ubuntu and her Android/Linux smartphone and her scanner and printer all deal with Beast, my GNU/Linux server. I have her file-system plugged in via NFS so she can do IT in bed, in front of the TV, on TV, or in her office and all her thousands of pictures, documents, scans etc. are all in the same place. She doesn’t even have much problem using Ubuntu or XFCE4 on Debian because she mostly uses the same applications all day long. It just works for her and memories of That Other Operating System are fading. She was locked to a single thick client with limited capabilities in those Dark Days. She had repeated crashes and malware. Today, her issues with IT are things like changing the name of a file on the FTP server or how to scan a light image or…, real problems, not problems M$ causes billions of people every day.
  • Shame on Microsoft for Leaving Surface Pro Customers in the Dark
    When Microsoft came out with its first batch of Surface tablets a few years ago, the company took a bath on them. It didn't help that they were conceived around the unpopular Windows 8 and the now-defunct Windows RT and that the prospects for the OS were in question. After Microsoft wrote off $900 million on its money-losing Surface business, the deathwatch was on. But the Intel-based Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 showed a glimmer of hope, and Microsoft finally delivered a solid hit with the Surface Pro 3. After that water­shed release, the Surface division is now an important business that brings in more than $1 billion revenue per quarter. Yet Microsoft isn't showing much appreciation toward the customers who helped put its Surface business on solid footing.
  • A quick introduction to Audacity for teachers
  • SX 2.2 RELEASE
    Skylable is proud to announce immediate availability of SX 2.2. The new release provides a significant performance boost by improving calculation, index usage and maintaining cache of frequently computed values, as well as performing background propagation of all replicas above 1 by default. Additionally, sxfs now enables caching of smaller objects for improved latency. The source code and binary packages are available for download now. SX 2.2 is backward compatible with previous 2.x releases, and all you need to do is to run sxsetup –upgrade on every node after updating it!
  • 3 Awesome Themes For Plank, The Linux Dock App
    Plenty of people use the desktop dock Plank on their Linux desktop — and for good reason. Plank is a nimble, customisable desktop dock for Linux desktops.
  • hackmud, a cyberpunk themed text-based hacking simulator is now out with Linux support
    The game is listed as Single-player and Multi-player, so it's not entirely clear what type of game it is. As it also claims it's an MMO. I think the developer needs to make it much clearer exactly what is online and what is offline.
  • Yooka-Laylee has another trailer, featuring Shovel Knight
  • ContractPatch, Step 2: Understanding the power balance
    At the point you are presented with a job offer, your prospective employer really wants to hire you. Chances are, they’ve screened and interviewed a number of candidates and put a lot of work into the process. Your manager has thought deeply about who they want in the position and has probably imagined how it will all work out with you in the role. Both you and the hiring decision-maker(s) are probably very optimistic about what you’ll accomplish in the role and how well you’ll get along working together. At this point, no one wants to go back to the drawing board and start the process over again. You will be excited to start the new job but it’s worth taking a step back to appreciate the unusual position you are in with your new employer.
  • Epiphany Icon Refresh
  • Black Lab Linux 8 Beta 3 Is Out with Full EFI Support, Based on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS
    Softpedia was informed today, September 26, 2016, by Black Lab Software's CEO Robert J. Dohnert about the availability of the third Beta development snapshot of the upcoming Black Lab Linux 8 GNU/Linux operating system. Black Lab Linux 8 "Onyx" Beta 3 is here approximately three weeks after the second Beta pre-release and it comes with a major change. It is no longer based on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (Trusty Tahr), as the development team decided to switch base and move to the next Ubuntu LTS version, namely Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus).
  • DevOps: All Development, No Database
    Since the last time I touched working code in a production environment, it’s no exaggeration to say that no part of the development process remains untouched. Over the last decade plus, effectively every aspect of the application development process has been scrutinized, rethought and in many cases reinvented. From version control to build systems to configuration and deployment to monitoring, modern development’s toolchain is multi-part and sophisticated. As it must be. Processes that work for code released in cycles measured in months cannot be expected to handle workflows measured in days or minutes. For all that the process of developing software has evolved, however, the database remains curiously overlooked. Consider the example of Cloud Native. Describing a modern, typically legacy-free approach to building applications appropriate for cloud environments, the term Cloud Native has gone from informal descriptor to accepted industry shorthand in short order – to the extent that it has its own technical foundation. If we look at the membership of that foundation, the CNCF, it would appear that the roster includes no database vendors at the Platinum or Gold membership levels, at least if you assume Google’s involvement is around Kubernetes and not tools such as BigQuery. Of the 41 silver members, meanwhile, two can be considered database vendors: Crunchy and Treasure Data.

Red Hat Financial News

Leftovers: OSS and Sharing

  • What does it mean to change company culture?
    Tools are specific concrete things that a culture has decided is a way to improve a process. Buckminster Fuller has a great quote about tools and thinking: "If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don't bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking." In particular, DevOps tools can provide folks new ways to look at things—like delivering code into a production environment, for example. But there's lots of examples where a new tool doesn't influence the thinking of the people who use it, so things don't change.
  • Why Open Beats Closed
  • Google Improves Image Recognition; Releases Project as Open Source Software
    Google says its algorithm can correctly caption a photograph with nearly 94 percent accuracy. The company says the improvements come in the third version of its system named Inception, with the score coming from a standardized auto-caption test named ImageNet. It reports the first version scored 89.6 percent, the second 91.8 percent and the new one 93.9 percent.
  • Contributing to Open Source Projects Not Just For the Experts
    XDA has long been a proponent of open source development, and we’ve seen it flourish over the years. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons our community has grown as fast as it has over these past 13 years, with Android’s core being the driving force. Many people desire to be part of open source and contribute but often don’t know how they can, whether because they think they lack the skills or they just don’t have the time.
  • Firefox Reader Mode is Finally Getting a Keyboard Shortcut
    Among the changes which arrived in the September release of Firefox 49 were an enhanced set of Reader Mode features, including spoken narration and line-width spacing options. All very welcome. But the improvements aren’t stopping there. Firefox 50, which is due next month, will add another sorely needed feature: a keyboard shortcut for Reader Mode. Y
  • Introduction to OpenStack by Rich Bowen
    In this talk, Rich, the OpenStack Community Liaison at Red Hat, will walk you through what OpenStack is, as a project, as a Foundation, and as a community of organizations.
  • How Microsoft Measures Open Source Success [Ed: Wim Coekaerts got a bigger salary offer from Microsoft than from Oracle so now he’s propagandist/EEE in chief]
  • Public licenses and data: So what to do instead?
    Why you still need a (permissive) license Norms aren’t enough if the underlying legal system might allow an early contributor to later wield the law as a threat. That’s why the best practice in the data space is to use something like the Creative Commons public domain grant (CC-Zero) to set a clear, reliable, permissive baseline, and then use norms to add flexible requirements on top of that. This uses law to provide reliability and predictability, and then uses norms to address concerns about fairness, free-riding, and effectiveness. CC-Zero still isn’t perfect; most notably it has to try to be both a grant and a license to deal with different international rules around grants.
  • NIST Releases New 'Family' of Standardized Genomes
    With the addition of four new reference materials (RMs) to a growing collection of “measuring sticks” for gene sequencing, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) can now provide laboratories with even more capability to accurately “map” DNA for genetic testing, medical diagnoses and future customized drug therapies. The new tools feature sequenced genes from individuals in two genetically diverse groups, Asians and Ashkenazic Jews; a father-mother-child trio set from Ashkenazic Jews; and four microbes commonly used in research. NIST issued the world’s first genome reference material (NIST RM 8398)—detailing the genetic makeup for a woman with European ancestry—in May 2015. Together, all five RMs serve as a collection of well-characterized, whole genome standards that can tell a laboratory how well its DNA sequencing processes are working by measuring the performance of the equipment, chemistry and data analysis involved.
  • ANSI Seeks Organizations Interested in Serving as U.S. TAG Administrator for ISO Technical Committee on Blockchain and Electronic Distributed Ledger
  • Industrial IoT leaders work towards interoperability and open source collaboration

LLVM News

  • Pairing LLVM JIT With PostgreSQL Can Speed Up Database Performance
    Using the LLVM JIT with PostgreSQL can vastly speed up the query execution performance and shows off much potential but it hasn't been mainlined yet. Dmitry Melnik presented at this month's LLVM Cauldron over speeding up the query execution performance of PostgreSQL by using LLVM. Particularly with complex queries, the CPU becomes the bottleneck for PostgreSQL rather than the disk. LLVM JIT is used for just-in-time compilation of queries.
  • LLVM Cauldron 2016 Videos, Slides Published
    The inaugural LLVM Cauldron conference happened earlier this month ahead of the GNU Tools Cauldron in Hebden Bridge, UK. All of the slides and videos from this latest LLVM conference are now available.