One of the downsides to being a journalist is that on a fairly regular basis, you are obliged to sit in a room and listen to very dry PowerPoint presentations on the product roadmaps of large companies. If this has to be the case though, there are worse places to be than in a luxurious hotel set high in the mountains of Austria. Lucky then that this was the location NEC Display Solutions (NDS) had chosen for its annual spring press event, held earlier this week. We were also taken Go-Karting and I'm sure you'll be delighted to know that the team I was in came second and as a prize we were all given a rather nice towel. Being presented with a towel by Germans is an irony that will stay with me forever.
Interestingly, from the figures presented to us by NEC, if you've bought a regular 17in or 19in display in the past year or so, that chances are that it hasn't been NEC. At those screen sizes its volume share in Q4 of 2005 was only 12th and 10th respectively. In fact, it was a pleasant change not to hear a company spin figures to make itself No. 1 or nearly No. 1 in everything for a change. NEC is a specialist at larger screen sizes and tends to do better in that market, where margins are greater anyway. Sure enough, for screens with a 20 inch diagonal it was 7th on the list.
Instead of obsession with chart positions, the emphasis was on the quality and service that NEC Display Solutions provides. As a company that only produces LCD displays and nothing else it has an advantage over its competitors for whom displays are often but one of many products. Of course, NEC Corporation makes many diverse products, but NEC Display Solutions is an entirely separate division, with its European headquarters in Munich. NEC's Plasma and projectors divisions are also entirely separate at this juncture.
Of the many statistics presented to us, one that piqued my interest was how different regions of Europe compare with regard to screen sizes. While the Nordics and German speaking countries have a preference for 19in displays, in the UK 17in is more popular. While in most places 15in displays are dying a death, they are very popular in Central and Eastern Europe and Russia as due to their affordability. Amazingly though the UK actually has the highest percentage of rubbish old 15in display. Doesn't it make you proud.
In case you're not completely au fait with NECs line up, let me pass on what I learnt. NEC Displays is split up into four core sections.
- Commercial desktops
- Professional Desktops
- Public displays
The commercial desktops are made up of the entry-level AccuSync line, the new 5 series, the corporate aimed 70 series and the GX line for gamers. The professional desktops consists of the current 80 series and the forthcoming 90 series and is aimed primarily at the financial and scientific markets. You also have the SpectraView range for markets where colour accuracy is critical.
NEC essentially created the LCD based Public Display (PD) segment. It's aimed at putting LCDs in places such as airports and train stations and lobbies of posh companies. The buzz word here was â€˜Digital Signage'. It's a simple category at the moment with one range consisting of different screen sizes.
However, to keep things from getting stale NEC has introduced an entirely new category within the PD segment - the Multi Functional Monitor, which I'll describe in a bit more detail later.
Finally, there are Medical displays, which as you might expect is a highly specialised area. The displays here are called the MDview series.