Projecting a new image

Projecting a new image

While digital projectors have been popular in consumer and business channels for over a decade, new technology developments mean the market still represents a healthy opportunity for the channel to make sales.

The consensus among vendors and analysts is that there are new ways in which resellers can push the hardware, whether based on XGA resolution or the new WXGA technology, in 2007 and beyond. For starters, explains IDC Australia associate analyst, Felipe Rego, the projector market is still growing, albeit at a slower pace than 24-36 months ago, and there is a clear and present demand for the devices. He said the overall market grew by 8.3 per cent between 2005 and 2006, or from 88,000 units in 2005 to 95,000 units in 2006.

While projector take-up has reached a mature and stable state, Toshiba product marketing manager, Justin White, said the technology was continuing to adapt to meet the market's requirements, leaving the door open to new sales.

"In the last 12-18 months we've gone from SVGA to XGA projectors," he said. "And now we're on the cusp of a switch from 4:3 resolution to 16:9 widescreen. Pretty much all notebooks are 16:9 resolution and projectors are about to go that way, too."

A wider focus
As White said, XGA projectors have made it easy for presenters to use a laptop with projectors thanks to the increased resolution (800 x 600 versus 1024 x 768). However, as both business and consumer notebook displays shift from the square-ish 4:3 aspect ratio to the widescreen 16:9, projectors have failed to keep up: only a handful of projector models sold today are what is known as WXGA.

InFocus A/NZ regional sales manager, Sean Tobin, noted the lag in widescreen projectors models reaching the marketplace. Despite this, he claimed WXGA would be the next big selling point for the channel. InFocus was likely to bring out WXGA models in the third quarter - about the same time as many of its competition. This comes as good news for the channel because customers will be clamouring for WXGA projectors for a variety of reasons. One of them is that if the notebook resolution and projector native resolution differ, the image will be interpolated. This is a process that can introduce unsightly artifacts and distortion, especially in text documents. Not a good look for today's professional presenter.

Generally speaking, a laptop will have a way to toggle among resolutions - sometimes via a single button - but to avoid this issue altogether and make the technology as plug-and-play as possible, vendors expect to see customers lining up for WXGA projectors as soon as they are available.

"Widescreen projection is still in the very early days at the moment and I find this type of thing is sometimes driven by operating systems as well," Mitsubishi Electric product manager, Matt Hanna, said. "Windows Vista, for example, is something that will stimulate the whole widescreen market, too. We won't see square projectors replaced right away, but widescreen will slowly take more market share as time goes by." Meanwhile, one of the biggest misconceptions a reseller could have about the projector market this year was that home theatre represented a large piece of the projector market pie, Epson marketing communications director, Mike Pleasants, said.

"Compared to business, people think home theatre's the bigger of the two markets, but really it's not," he said. "For us, it's only about 20 per cent of our sales. The vast majority of this business is in corporate and education."

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