Big-Screen TV: The Fourth Option


by Sweta Dash

When consumers shop for a sleek television with a big screen, most think they have only three choices of display technology: plasma, LCD, or microdisplay-based rear projection. And consumers will pay dearly to obtain large-screen televisions using these technologies, with significant price increases for even a few additional inches of display size.

But front-projector home-theater systems provide consumers with another option, one that delivers a big-screen image at a relatively affordable price. Front projectors can already display images that range from 60 to 100 in. on the diagonal at price points varying from less than $1000 to more than $50,000.

My colleagues and I at iSuppli Corp. believe that recent breakthroughs in size, weight, and performance – combined with remarkable price reductions – are now making it possible for more consumers to realize a theater experience in the home by using a front projector.

Breaking the Price Barrier

After smashing through the $1000 price barrier in 2003, front projectors are set to reach the sub-$500 price range by 2008, and it is likely that some manufacturers will reach this price point well before 2008 for low-end products. Attaining this price threshold will be extremely important for the stimulation of consumer sales, which we expect to rise at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 49% through 2008.

Overall, front-projector shipments for consumer, educational, and commercial uses should reach more than 10 million units by 2008, rising from 2.5 million in 2003. The global front-projector market swelled to 3.6 million units by the end of 2004, up a dramatic 45% from 2003. Of those 3.6 million units, we estimate that nearly 17% were dedicated consumer products, not including crossover products, which are used in both business and the home.

Instant Theater

An example of where technological innovation and improved product design can take projection technology is the "instant theater," which combines a front projector, DVD player, and speakers into a single plug-and-play product. Having the capability to show movies in any place at any time with just a power outlet, these home-entertainment projectors can deliver instant home theater, and they should be available from several manufacturers by June 2005.

Pocket Projectors

More startling is the advent of so-called "personal projectors," which mark a paradigm shift in the projector arena. These extremely lightweight units (typically 1 pound) are powered by LED lamps or other new light sources and have optical output levels of less than 50 ANSI lumens. Such projectors, which might also be called "pocket projectors," feature wireless capabilities and are battery operated. These products would enable users to deliver multimedia presentations at almost any time. They might even be integrated with mobile telephones and/or PDAs. At a future price point of $300 or below, these projectors could potentially enjoy sales of tens of millions of units annually.

Now that the industry is placing more emphasis on new technology and innovative product design, we believe that front projectors have a better chance than ever before of exciting large numbers of consumers when they look at big-screen-TV options. Front projectors certainly offer the biggest picture in the smallest box at the most attractive price point. •


Sweta Dash is the Director of LCD and Projection Research at iSuppli Corp., 2901 Tasman Dr., Suite 201, Santa Clara, CA 95054; telephone 408/654-1700, fax 408/654-1750, e-mail: