Projecting the FUTURE

Projecting the FUTURE

"The increasing strength of DLP technology is coming through the IT channel, thanks to increasing volumes from DLP-focused vendor BenQ," IDC analyst, Liam Gunson, said. "At the same time Epson, which is focused on the LCD space, has come out with a great range at the lower end of the market as well, so there's a lot of competition that's driving demand."

As the rivalry heats up, prices are coming down, the practical differences between the two technologies are less obvious, and the overall market for projectors has been growing at a clip.

CEO for Christian Multimedia, Wayne Giddy, an audio-visual integrator focused mainly on installing sound and display systems in churches and schools, said most people would be hard pressed to see any real difference between the latest generation of DLP and LCD technology.

"In the early days, DLP was still developing and there were glaring differences in terms of brightness, flicker and so forth. But now with higher speeds on the colour wheels, it's less discernible," he said. "Some people, depending on what they have read, come to me and ask for a specific technology, but there are good and bad aspects to both technologies so the solutions really depend on the environment."

Gunson said traditional differences between the technologies had seen LCD projectors favoured in commercial and education environments, where high brightness was a benefit. At the same time DLP technology staked its claim in the home theatre space, where ambient light could be better controlled, and contrast ratios were prized.

"LCD in the past were less expensive and favoured as a data projector, which made it a natural in the commercial and education market, while DLP has been more in turn with displaying videos," Gunson said.

However, as the technologies converge, and prices fall, overall growth in the market for projectors is so strong, that in the immediate period there's more than enough room for both technologies to do well.

"We are picking both technologies to show strong growth in the next five years," Gunson said. "The Q1 figures had overall sales growing at 12.3 per cent over the same time in 2006, but those figures will settle down to about 3-4 per cent growth in the longer term."

Horses for courses changing tracks
But where's all this growth coming from, and what do resellers need to do to get a piece of the action? It's all in understanding the markets, according to director of audio-visual reseller and integrator Peak AV, Karl Schuback.

With his focus firmly on the education and corporate market, Shuback has long been a proponent of a horses-for-courses approach to the LCD/DLP divide.

"LCD has been a lower price, so it's been the best option for the education market," Schuback said. "Both technologies have their place; DLP goes into the boardroom, where they have more money to spend, while LCD goes into the classroom."

However, according to regional sales manager for projection technologies manufacturer InFocus, Sean Tobin, as initial costs come down DLP technology is presenting itself as a serious contender for the education space.

"There's no argument that LCD is better in a large auditorium type environment, but where you are looking at installing projectors in classrooms, DLP is becoming the better option," he said. "Because of their internal workings, DLP projectors are virtually maintenance free, can offer greater longevity, and have a lower cost of ownership."

Tobin's point is an important one, as much of the demand coming from the education sector is being generated by a demand for the installation of interactive whiteboards.

According to Schuback, schools are no longer installing a single projector in the library or school hall, they are increasingly installing a battery of projectors in multimedia rooms, or in some cases in every single classroom.

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