Tablets propel growth of LCD panel market as most other applications struggle

According to a report from IHS Inc., tablets are single-handedly driving the global market for LCD panels during the first nine months of the year.


Global large-sized LCD panel shipments by application during the first three quarters of 2012 and 2013. Source: IHS Inc., November 2013Tablets are single-handedly driving the global market for large-sized liquid-crystal display (LCD) panels during the first nine months of the year, mitigating the losses from most other sectors of the LCD space, according to the LCD Shipment Database report from IHS Inc.

Worldwide LCD shipments for tablet panels so far for the first three quarters of 2013 amounted to 186.6 million units, up a remarkable 94% from 96.2 million during the same three-quarter period last year. As the most vigorous segment of the four major applications for LCD panels, tablets are working alongside a modestly growing TV panel space to make up for large declines in desktop PC monitors and notebooks, the two weakest LCD sectors.

The great gains made by tablet LCD panel shipments this year explain why total LCD panel shipments for the first three quarters are up 8% to 628.3 million units, a respectable increase from 581.2 million units for the same time last year, as presented in the figure.

LCD panel shipments for the TV sector were also up from January to the end of September, reaching 172.2 million units, or a 4% rise from 165.6 million last year. However, given the declining LCD-TV market this year, IHS expects panel shipments for televisions to end the year basically unchanged compared to 2012, in light of weak results expected in the fourth quarter.

Compared to the two gainers, the other two major panel segments—desktop PC monitors and notebooks—ran double-digit deficits during the first nine months of the year. Aggregate LCD panel shipments for monitors amounted to 121.5 million units, down 10% from 135.5 million. Notebooks fared even worse at 140.6 million units, down a precipitous 20% from 174.9 million.

“Tablets have continued to enjoy high popularity among consumers three years after Apple introduced the first media tablet device in the form of the iPad,” said Ricky Park, senior manager; large-area displays. “Since then, tablets have eroded the share of computers in general including notebook PCs, taking down the monitor market as well. This is reflected in the rising demand for tablet panels and the declining prospects for computer-related panels.”

Tablets rule the LCD panel realm

Although tablet panel shipments dipped in the second quarter this year compared to the first, this is the only sector in which shipments for every quarter of 2013 are up from their corresponding levels a year ago in 2012.

The tablet space is also the lone sector to post any kind of increase in the third quarter compared to the second. In contrast, all three other applications lost ground during this time, normally considered a strong period for sales and shipments.

TV disappointment

Despite the overall strong performance for large-sized LCD panels during the first nine month of the year, the third quarter proved somewhat disappointing as shipments grew at lower-than-expected levels, on both a sequential basis and a year-over-year reckoning. The quarter’s 3% growth was lower than the 8% expansion enjoyed in the third quarter of 2012.

“The slowdown in the third quarter has resulted in oversupply, high inventories and continuous panel price reductions throughout 2013, especially in the television segment,” said Sweta Dash, senior director, display research and strategy for IHS.

For example, panel pricing for 39-, 40-, and 42-in sized televisions dropped from 14% to 18% from January to September. Meanwhile, 50-in TV panel pricing declined by 10% to 12% during that period.

All attention is now turning to the significant fourth quarter, the busiest time for consumer and retail sales throughout the world because of the holidays. Most signs indicate that shipments in the fourth quarter will be up from the third by about 5%, but volume will only show 0.6% growth from the same period last year.

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