HD TV, PC & Monitor All In One Present Sales Issue

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Later this year several vendors including Samsung, Sony Acer and Benq will launch a new generation of devices that are as combination of a PC, HD TV and display monitor. For both vendors and retailers the big issue is how should, these devices should be sold?

Later this year several vendors including Samsung, Sony Acer and Benq will launch a new generation of devices that are as combination of a PC, HD TV and display monitor. For both vendors and retailers the big issue is how should, these devices should be sold?

For GFK the issue will be even harder as one consumer could be buying the device as a TV while another as a PC.

Chris Connery, Vice President, PC and Large Format Commercial Displays at research Company DisplaySearch, Calvin Hsieh, Research Director, Hisakazu Torii, Vice President, TV Market Research, and Deborah Yang, Research Director, Monitor & TV, DisplaySearch all met to discuss this issue.

They later wrote the following comments.

While the concept of convergence between PCs and TVs has been around almost as long as the PC market, as LCD TVs come down in price (mainly by getting smaller in size) and as the traditional desktop PC market continues to evolve, the definition of the display continues to evolve as well.

A case in point is that Q1’09 saw the re-emergence of multi-function monitors (or MFMs), which are defined as products principally designed as computer monitors but which also include a TV tuner.

These products come from the monitor business units of major corporations or from monitor companies as opposed to TV companies. Many companies are struggling internally over how to classify such products: Are they TVs, monitors or are they truly being used as both a PC monitor and a TV-the least likely of the scenarios? The market for MFMs should not be confused with watching TV on a PC, which is a related but separate trend.

Indeed, watching streaming video such as Netflix on one’s PC might be considered the true definition of convergence, especially if this individual watches a TV show or movie, then switches to tweeting or emailing on the same machine.

MFMs do not require that the PC be turned on. It is often pointed out that TVs are easier to use than PCs: you never need to CTRL-ALT-DEL your TV! Apple has even conceded that such usage, and its opposite-watching streaming video over a TV using Apple TV-is still in the hobby phase.

To move from the hobby phase to the mainstream, monitor manufacturers are once again building TV tuners into their monitors, thus allowing the display to be turned on (via an included remote control) without turning on the PC and hassling with all the software required for watching TV on a PC.

Such dual function displays have been marketed before, with the market all but dead with the ATSC tuner mandate for smaller displays, since including an ATSC tuner priced these out of the market. For instance, Dell tried to get into the TV market by marketing MFM-TVs (monitors with TV functionality) many years ago.

 

Other companies such as Sony and Sharp had similar strategies and products. But these products were sold in the PC section of retailers like Best Buy, which helped to position them as monitors in consumers’ minds. Actually, companies like Samsung would have almost the same product in the TV section (originating from the company’s TV division, not its monitor division) as well as an MFM from the monitor division in the PC section. The MFM was typically much less expensive than the same-spec TV, but customers never went to the PC section to buy a TV and thus the concept failed.

Flash-forward to 2009, however, and the game has changed.

It appears that many retailers no longer have a PC section and a TV section (with new types of retailers now coming into play in the CE market) and are mixing the products together both on the bricks-and-mortar side and in retail.

So since MFMs are sold alongside LCD TVs (most of which have some sort of PC connector like VGA), are they still considered monitors?
When customs officials come upon such a conundrum (that of not being able to define a product simply by its specification), they tend to fall back on principal use-how the product is primarily used or intended to be used-and tend to rely on many factors:

How the company classifies the product (i.e., self classification)
Market channels (retail outlets vs. commercial/industrial distributors)
Actual end-use (difficult to know without direct surveys of end-purchasers)

Since the actual use of a product is difficult to determine, no one can tell at the moment if the new crop of MFM products being promoted in Europe are really being used as TVs (they look like TVs, have a remote and can be used on a stand-alone basis away from a PC and are, in many cases, less expensive than similarly specified LCD TVs), as monitors (with the TV function maybe used occasionally), or simply as computer monitors.

Until such end-usage patterns can be established, DisplaySearch captures data based upon how companies internally classify a product, as opposed to simply by feature-sets, since specifications alone cannot tell the whole story. How else should these products be classified? Should it be assumed that all displays that have a tuner are TVs even if history has shown that if such products are not promoted as a TV and are from a monitor company, they are most likely used as a computer monitor?

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