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SCREENING ROOM

SCREENING ROOM

If the current trend in monitors is anything to go by, larger monitors with flat TFT screens - at more competitive prices - seem to be what the market is asking for. That market is limited of course in the retail segment, because the large desktop vendors will not "break the bundle", so consumers in Australia have no choice in the monitors they receive with their computers. Many monitor manufacturers that ARN spoke to believe this situation will probably never change. If this is true, where are the opportunities for resellers in monitor sales? Durelle Fry went in search of answersOpportunities for resellers come when your customers have well-defined needs and the wherewithal to make informed choices and act upon them. Your biggest challenge in selling monitors is to identify those customers, then present them with the advantages the latest technologies have to offer - more reliable technology, more screen size for the dollar, aesthetically pleasing industrial design and savings in desktop real estate.

For customers who are environmentally conscious, or like to be seen to be so, some manufacturers follow standards which ensure that their monitors can be recycled or are made from recycled parts.

Suggestions for market segments to concentrate on include large corporate and government departments, financial institutions, brokerage houses, insurance companies, travel agencies, hospitals, laboratories and factories, and other high-end, high-profile applications. Keycorp believes that if consumers were made aware of the significant health and environmental benefits of flat screens, "many may well choose to spend more in the short term for a superior tool, which will save money in the longer term".

Marcel Melick, product manager for Sony Australia, says that most resellers usually up-sell from a system package or use a brand name monitor to increase the brand recognition of their systems. In order to sell them separately, Melick advises that they can be offered to customers when their system is being upgraded and it usually requires a new graphics card to make the most of the monitor's higher resolutions. "I would suggest resellers promote monitors such as ours as an investment. A PC can be upgraded numerous times, yet the monitor component is usually carried over. And after all, the monitor is the most important output device of the computer, and the reliability and quality of the Sony product is second to none."

Healthy greens

Australian Reseller News spoke to sev-eral monitor manufacturers to determine the level of attention paid to ergonomic and environmental standards in our increasingly aware and conscious society. While for many this was placed in the "too hard" basket, or considered to be the domain of the factory, some exploit this avenue as a marketing tool.

Keycorp argues that the primary ergonomic benefits of flat screens are also environmental ones. According to the company, benefits of Keycorp's FlatScreens include low power levels and low levels of radiation emission, compared to those of CRT monitors. A benefit to flow on from this is the minimisation of eye strain, "an often overlooked impact on the health and energy of the screen's user". Keycorp FlatScreens are also light, easy to move and adjustable with the choice of three styles: height adjustable, swivel and tilt.

Standards to look for at the end of the specifications page, when trying to find a selling angle for a new monitor, include those for safety, ergonomics and x-radiation.

Hewlett-Packard quotes two official standards: ZH1 618 comprises German safety regulations for display work places in the office sector and sets out the German legal requirements for display ergonomics and safety; ISO 9241-3 is from the International Standards Organisation and this standard defines ergonomic standards for visual displays in the office environment.

According to HP, "this is by far the most important ergonomic standard for monitors today". HP also lists voluntary labels or guidelines such as MPR11 and MPR111, which are guidelines for very low and extra low frequency electrostatic and electromagnetic fields. MPR11 was developed in response to health concerns about electromagnetic fields given off by monitors and while there is still debate about whether these emissions are harmful to humans, the Swedish government established the stringent standard just in case.

Another voluntary standard is set by the Swedish Confederation of Professional Employees, which are the Swedish Labour Union's environmental requirements for displays. TCO92 gives recommendations for ergonomics and low frequency electrostatic and electromagnetic fields for monitors. TCO95 extends the scope of TCO's recommendations to include CPUs and keyboards; ecological criteria are also added.

Several Philips monitors, for example, conform to TCO95. One of the ecological criteria requires that, depending on the product, a certain percentage of the materials in the product must be made from recycled parts or must be able to be recycled.

Checking for adherence to this standard in the features list of a monitor would be worthwhile because, according to Paul Robson, product manager of Philips PC Peripherals, "government bodies often require TCO95 compliance, even if it costs a bit more".

Some monitors can be returned to the manufacturer for recycling at the end of their life span. Hallmark (which sells monitors under the ViewMaster brand) recycles as many parts as possible back in to the repair of monitors. Surplus repaired monitors are used in-house. Mark James, general manager of Hallmark Computers, told ARN that "only useless parts are thrown out".

Power management standards include those set by the US Environmental Protection Agency, which require a power-saving mode with less than 30W power consumption; NUTEK, the Swedish National Board for Industrial and Technical Development, which has two levels of power-saving mode; Blue Angel, a UBA (German Federal Environmental Agency) and RAL (German Institute for Quality and Labelling) standard which specifies a power-saving mode as well as more than 60 other environmental, ergonomic and health safety criteria; and E2000, the Swiss BEW (Federal Energy Agency) which requires a low power sleep mode with power consumption of less than 5W (1997).

Safety labelling includes the European Union Conformity Mark (CE), which guarantees compliance with all European Union directives applicable to this type of equipment; and the German technical surveillance organisation's standard which certifies compliance with official safety, ergonomic, and environmental regulations.

Hitachi, Sony, Philips, Acer, ViewMaster and Keycorp monitors comply with many if not all of these standards and several list other similar standards as well.

Probably the area of greatest change in consumer demand in the last 12 months has been screen size, but discriminating users are seeking a bigger screen using less desktop space. While 21in screens are still expensive, relatively inexpensive 19in and 17in screens are now available in space-saving designs.

Philips' Robson believes that "the 14in is almost dead", the 15in is still very strong, and there is a very big trend towards the 17in. Hitachi has found that the 19in monitor market is the largest growth market, due to 21in performance at the high end of 17in prices.

Give me some space

Keycorp says that the greatest growth in sales at the moment is for the 12.1in flat screen monitors, while Sony has just released a 15in flat screen.

Sony's Melick believes that 15in displays will be the staple diet of the market for at least another four or five years, especially with the introduction of LCD Flat Panel Displays.

Johnson Hsiung, general manager of Servex Australia, believes there is no future in the 15in and under market in the long run because the pricing gap will become smaller and smaller. He told ARN that Acer's best selling monitor at the moment is the 17in with a higher refresh rate. Sony's greatest growth in sales is being experienced at 19in by far in units, but 17in by revenue.

Hallmark discontinued its 14in monitor as the price difference between it and the 15in became negligible. James told ARN that the price difference between a 15in and 17in monitor is still significant and until such time as it reduces, he doesn't see any great swing to 17in. "I think the 15in monitor will be with us for some time."

The choice is yours

He added that as most of Australia's monitors are imported and Australia is only a relatively small market, the market here will only reflect overseas trends.

Once resellers have identified a market of users who are in a position to choose which monitor they buy, the choice of monitor today and in the coming months is an exciting one. Technology is improving, standards are lifting. We can see more and spend less, and there is still more room left on the desktop than there has ever been before.

Speaking for Philips, Robson believes that the warranty that accompanies a monitor is of great significance when discriminating between similar products. Philips guarantees to deliver a top-of-the-range replacement monitor for a faulty unit within four working hours of a user calling an accredited Philips service centre. "The faulty monitor will be removed and returned to its owner when repaired."

Sony's Melick suggests that the issues to be addressed in the marketing of monitors include image quality, accurate colour reproduction, lack of distortion, build quality, and reliability.

The choice is a wide one and these issues will be important to buyers when they are choosing between similar products in a high-quality marketplace.


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