Slim Standards

The flat panel industry has seen much development recently as the dominance of digital signage looms on the horizon. From the shift to LCD to new networking capabilities, there are many modern trends in the assimilation of these displays. End users are asking for more features and the general consensus is bigger is better, but what can we expect in the future for flat panels?

The most obvious trend in the business of flat panels is the shift from plasma to LCD. Samsung's senior product marketing manager, Mark Pickard, explained, "LCD is going to continue to take more share of the market because they're simply better suited to the commercial environment. They have better longevity, brightness, and contrast. And they're certainly going to continue to get larger for the same price."

Another trend that seems to have two schools of thought is networking. Many LCDs now feature networking capabilities, but some companies feel that the half-life of IT equipment is too short to develop this technology without having the ability to process HD. NEC's senior product manager, Hans Baumann said, "We don't want to build something that is generally obsolete in six months to a year because our displays are designed to last a long time.

From the contractor's point of view, to be able to offer what exactly fits the customer's requirements is more important and there are third parties that can provide those components." Baumann stressed that this is based on the desire to go HD. "We think it's better to be able to control the display through a network but not for transmitting HD. You can't show that kind of high resolution through networking because the capability of the onboard isn't there yet."

On the other side of the fence is Samsung's Pickard. While HD can't be properly networked, Samsung's MagicNet, installed into their newer LCDs, has the capability to control the displays without an external PC. You can select a file you want to display off a centralized server. Pickard said, "It's a way to make the displays more efficient, making the deployment of informational signs simpler with less training required. It seems to resonate well with the integrators." Pickard also noted the networking compatibility of older LCDs with newer models. "The computer we built in is a general purpose computer, it's already got a very flexible capability when it's put in and we make sure its more backward compatible. The model we just released will control the previous model, so rather than require a hardware update you can have a mixed population of different capabilities. It's no different than having two generations of a notebook computer on the same network, they can talk to each other just fine."

The integration of flat panels has been throughout the hospitality and restaurant markets. In the hospitality industry, flat panels are used primarily for informational purposes, such as directions and a schedule of daily events. In the restaurant/bar market, the flat panel is being utilized for more revenue rearing purposes.

The future of flat panels seems to hold a lot for integrators as well as the end user. DVI capability is being called for as well because it eliminates expensive cable installation. Retail applications are becoming much more lucrative instead of a cost point. And as HD continues its ascent to becoming the standard, flat panels will have to ingratiate to survive among the rapid pace of display development.