Projecting the FUTURE

Projecting the FUTURE

"Now they can afford to install 5-10 projectors whereas a few years back they could only afford one," he said. "Demand has mostly been coming from private schools, but with the NSW government promising to install interactive whiteboards in all the state schools as well, I'm expecting demand to increase from that sector as well."

As it turns out, BenQ has stormed its way into the low end of the market with a range of low-cost DLP units. If people like Tobin can convince resellers on the total cost of ownership message, the trend towards DLP technology is set to accelerate. While initial cost has been a deciding factor when it came to the purchase of a single unit, schools with ten or more projectors will be focused on the total cost of ownership message. However, Giddy pointed out this message only really falls in the favour of DLP technology if the projector is going to be running for long periods of time.

"DLP has traditionally been classed as a long-life panel, while LCDs were considered to have higher bulb replacement costs," Giddy said. "Maybe in the home environment where you're using the projector more like a TV set, or a pub or club the DLP technology will give you the extra advantage. But in my area there's not much demand for a projector to be running [all of the time]."

Coming into the straight
With the education market divided between the traditional low-cost LCD units, and DLP newcomers, LCD vendor Epson has responded with a serious play for the home theatre space traditionally reserved for DLP technology.

Director of marketing communications, Mike Pleasants, said a new range of low-cost portable LCD projectors, with built-in speakers and multiple inputs. Was going to make things interesting in the market in the lead up to Christmas.

"The home area is really split into two types of users: you've got the serious home theatre enthusiasts, who are going to devote a whole room to create a cinema type experience; and then you are looking at people who are just going for flexibility as well as the big screen experience," Pleasants said. "Projectors are still relatively new for Mr and Mrs Smith, but if a reseller is able to explain where the technology fits into the way they watch TV, or play games, then there's a good market there."

He said low-cost portable LCD projectors aimed at the home, would provide the flexibility of being carted around the house and garden, and plugged into a range of different data sources. Moreover, built-in speakers would add an extra level of convenience for the home environment.

"They can carry it out into the garden, or into any room in the house," Pleasants said. "It will retail at around $1000, and can plug into DVD, PC, games consoles, or be used as a television. Unlike DLP technology, the LCD projectors have an offset function, so they can be installed in much smaller spaces."

This kind of offering opens up an interesting market space for clever resellers to provide a less expensive and power efficient alternative to fl at-screen televisions, currently dominating the market for electro-domestic appliances.

LCD projectors with built-in speakers, cost about a third, and use just 15 per cent of the power of the average fl at screen television, and can be easily moved.

However, it's not just Epson's LCDs that are aiming at the Christmas spend. ViewSonic account manager for TVs and projectors, Linda Kang, said low-cost projectors actually offered a more stable approach to media viewing as Christmas approaches.

"We see projector technology fitting perfectly into the household," Kang said. "We will have a sub-$1000 DLP projector available by October which will sell through Christmas time. It's a very mature technology and very cost-effective compared to flat panel technology."

However, convincing punters to think outside the square when it comes to their television watching habits may be more of a challenge.

Acer product manager for digital displays, Gaba Chang, said the biggest challenge resellers had when it came to selling projectors into the home market was that they lacked the necessary display space. "To get the message across resellers need to set up a display, and they usually have only limited space, and therefore limited models," Cheng said.

"I think the widescreen television market is going to eat into some of the growth of the projector market in the home space, but there will definitely be demand for DLP technology in education, as well as in the corporate market where people are looking for more portability."

No matter how you look at it the market is going gangbusters. However, IT resellers who hesitate are likely to loose out to a growing market already dominated by CE and AV resellers. No matter what the underlying technology happens to be, making the most from the projector market means actually installing a solution that best fits the customer.

"At the moment, the AV guys are dominating the market, because they are better at creating a full solution," Acer's Chang said. "To make the most of the growth we are seeing resellers need to know both technologies, and more importantly they need to understand the applications that go along with them."

So if you ever had a passing interest in installing a home theatre, or setting up an interactive whiteboard - now's a good time to shore up your skills base and get in while the going's good.

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