Along with shrinking desktop PCs comes the downsizing of computer monitors. Sleek desktop systems incorporating LCD displays (like the Gateway Profile 2, $1,699 street) are a clear sign that flat panels are more than just executive toys. In fact, these systems now target the midlevel market, where desk space is at a premium.
When it comes to viewing area, though, bigger is always better. Although 14-inch active-matrix LCDs are replacing 12.1-inch displays in laptops, 15 inches is the absolute minimum you'll want on your desktop-the viewing equivalent of a 17-inch CRT. Who wouldn't prefer an LCD's small footprint, flat screen and flicker-free viewing?
But can you pay the freight? A 15-inch LCD starts at about $800-way down from a couple years ago-but more desirable 18- and 20-inch flat-panel displays still cost $2,000 and up. Way up. So although prices for LCDs have fallen, they're still quite a bit higher than the sub-$300 price tag for a decent 17-inch CRT monitor.
Will the future see flat panels on small-business desks everywhere? According to research firm Display-Search (www.displaysearch.com), small businesses accounted for 16 percent of the flat-panel market in the fourth quarter of 1999. Whether your business will join that 16 percent depends on your equipment budget.
Manufacturing shortages or surpluses will push LCD prices up or down from time to time, but the long-term slide in desktop flat-panel prices is inevitable. In the meantime, small LCDs will continue to proliferate in handhelds, digital picture frames and the new crop of information appliances-and that will only help to drive costs down.