The boom in media tablet demand is causing display providers to flock to the market with more products, inflating the supply base and causing prices to decline, according to an IHS iSuppli LCD Price Tracker report from information and analytics provider IHS.
Pricing in January declined for 7.0-, 9.7- and 10.1-inch liquid crystal display (LCD) panels used in media tablets. The only exception came in the 7.9-inch space, where pricing held steady. Tablet display prices dipped in a range from $0.50 to $1.00 compared to December.
Tablet panel prices are expected to weaken throughout 2013, IHS iSuppli believes, with 7-inch panels experiencing the steepest drop of all.
In particular, many LCD panel makers are in the process of shifting capacity away from slow-growing or declining markets—such as notebook and monitor panels—and toward the tablet segment, which continues to expand quickly. The move is resulting in increased supply and intensified competition, causing prices to decline. With capacity and production both climbing significantly, the oversupply could become serious in the near future.
For 7-inch twisted nematic (TN) panels that feature narrower viewing angles compared to their in-plane switching (IPS) counterparts, pricing contracted by 2.5 percent in January and has become highly negotiable.
The flooding of the market with TN panels could also make it possible for some brands to offer tablets costing as little as $99, if industry rumors are to be believed.
Big price declines for big panels
In addition to tablets, pricing for large-sized LCD panels declined in January across all other major applications as the market entered the slow season during the first quarter of the year.
Compared to levels in December, pricing was in uniform retreat as the year started for large-sized LCD panels used in televisions, monitors and notebooks. TV panels declined by $1 to $3 on average, monitors slipped by $1, and notebooks fell by $0.30 to $0.50.
TV panel prices turn down
TV brands have expressed hesitation to acquire more TV panels in the first quarter given already high levels of TV panel inventory. Concern is also afoot in China over the possible oversupply of 32-inch TV panels—the main size that Chinese makers produce and ship out. Overall, there is little hope that panel prices will increase before April, especially as Chinese and Taiwanese panel makers have contributed to oversupply by not aggressively managing fab utilization.
In the case of monitors, more capacity has become available at Gen 5 and Gen 6 fabs than last year. As a result, the supply of 18.5- and 21.5-inch monitor panels is no longer a problem. Nonetheless, demand as a whole continues to remain weak because of strong competition from tablets, combined with an anemic PC market that has also affected the monitor market. No major demand drivers are in store for the first half, and panel makers are offering discounts from $1.00 to $1.50 to promote larger-sized monitor panels.
Notebook panels are in the same dire straits as monitor panels, with the first and second quarters every year marking the slow time of year. Moreover, demand for Windows 8 notebooks has not materialized, resulting in stubbornly high notebook panel inventories. Notebook panel prices are expected to decline through April before stabilizing in May, and then are expected to see a moderate bump in the third quarter in preparation for back-to-school sales.
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