From pocket-sized viewing to video wireless capability, the projector market is on an upswing and hot new features this year are making the devices even brighter.
While projectors have typically been used for company meetings, customer presentations, and education and training, they are increasingly appearing in more creative scenarios, such as pubs and special events. They continue to be a bright pot in the peripherals market - and no longer do the lights have to be dimmed or the shades drawn to see the show.
Mainly driven by lower-cost and better performing products, IDC reported local projector take-up grew by 9.7 per cent year-on-year from Q1-Q3, 2005 to Q1-Q3, 2006.
The standout market segments remain business and education, with buyers attracted to the higher resolutions and lighter weight machines, IDC senior hardware analyst, Liam Gunson, said.
"Business and education is showing strong growth due to vendors leveraging the IT channel with PCs and pushing projectors," he said. The home theatre segment, which has hit the sub-$1000 level, is also a burgeoning growth area. Gunson predicted it would broaden due to the significant price decline over the past few quarters as well as more user-friendly, all-in-one projectors hitting the market.
Meanwhile, education represents an excellent opportunity for projector vendors, as many schools look to secure a 1:1 ratio of notebooks to classrooms. In education, teachers like the fact that one projector can hook up wirelessly to as many as 16 notebooks, giving them full remote control, Panasonic AV systems product manager, Michelle Aiken, said.
Across the board in business, government and education, she earmarked continued take-up in the presentation projector category as well as the fixed large venue category. This includes cinema complexes, conference centres, indoor entertainment/sporting arenas, and concert halls. Staging companies are using projectors during special events such as music or film festivals.
"We expect 10 per cent growth over last year," Aiken said. Along with aggressive price points, technology improvements are helping to reduce the size and weight of projectors while increasing their performance. This is particularly attractive to education and government, which Aiken said were two of the hottest target markets in 2007.
Another big market obsession is high definition support, she said. Panasonic's latest large venue projector, the 10,000 lumen, three-chip DLP projector, offers full high definition (Full HD) resolution (1920 x 1080p) and is true widescreen.
"Full HD is a key market trend," Aiken said.
Other features coming to the fore include liquid cooling and a four lamp system to ensure the show will always go on; another ideal selling point to staging companies and e-cinema.
Acer projectors product manager, Matt Pearce, agreed the biggest feature to sweep the projector market was high definition.
"While other vendors offer 1080p, we offer the 720p. There's more and more demand for the high definition capability," he said. IDC's Gunson said the push for high definition specifications like 480p, 720p and 1080p was fuelling the home entertainment market. At the moment, retail and the pro-AV specialist channels were reaping the rewards. "The big driver here is the availability of content," he said. "This will be the key to pushing the HD models."
Activity is also shaping up on the video wireless capability front, which will most likely appear on the market in Q3, Acer's Pearce said. "We are currently limited to PowerPoint because there's not enough bandwidth around wireless," he said.
Panasonic's Aiken predicted wide XGA (WXGA) would have a big impact on the market in the next 12 months. The push was being driven by the introduction of more laptops with widescreen displays.
InFocus Asia-Pacific senior vice-president and general manager, Joe O'Sullivan, said the emergence of WXGA native projectors in the first half of this year would change the projector landscape. "It's opening a new segment for sales into institutes and learning facilities as well as revisiting some of the current corporate boardroom installations," he said.
Mitsubishi Electric product manager, Matt Hanna, said resellers should be aware that widescreen was no longer simply catering to the home theatre category, and should pitch the advancements to the corporate world.
"There's an increase in widescreen data projection. Up until now widescreen was relegated to the home theatre units, while business was only 4x3, but there's some technology advancement here," he said.
Business can now get good business widescreen projectors that don't compromise on brightness, Hanna said, citing the HD4000 and WD2000 models.
"There will be more widescreen movement as widescreen notebooks and operating systems supporting it, like Media Centre and Vista, permeate the market," he said.
Although widescreen was still mainly a consumer/home entertainment play, IDC's Gunson said it was starting to show up in the commercial segment.
"There was some resistance to widescreen in business, but as consumers get more comfortable with widescreen notebooks, demand and interest will increase," he said.
InFocus is reporting steady growth across all segments. "With entry level education projectors reaching a new target price towards the last half of 2006, a sustainable run-rate has now developed within the education segment," O'Sullivan said. "With the emergence of competitively priced 720p projectors in the home entertainment segment, there are also some signs of possible growth."
Another shift is taking place in the type of graphics standard favoured by users. According to Toshiba product marketing manager, Justin White, there had been a massive shift away from SVGA to XGA (1024 x 768) technology. This was occurring even in the education space, which was traditionally a strong supporter of SVGA. Because XGA did not have to compress the image, it offered better image quality, a larger screen and more detail.
"SVGA is dying out this year. It will be phased out," Panasonic's Aiken predicted.
InFocus' O'Sullivan urged resellers to aggressively go after sales of XGA resolution projectors.
"With XGA resolution projectors representing over 50 per cent of the Australian market, and SVGA in continual decline, resellers should position themselves to promote a now affordable XGA projector solution," he said.