Rosy Projections

The video display market has been revolutionized in the last few years as plasma screens and video projectors have gained widespread acceptance. Smaller, lighter, and brighter projectors are translating into healthy market growth: Worldwide unit shipments are expected to reach 2.7 million in 2006, a 24.6% compound annual growth rate from 2002–2006, according to figures released by analyst IDC.

IDC also predicts that falling price points for projectors will help drive growth but temper overall revenues. Other findings indicate that sub-five-pound projectors are the fastest growing segment of the market, as average selling prices dip below $3000. According to IDC's Bob O'Donnell, "Decreasing prices are beginning to make these projectors a more realistic option for those planning a purchase in the near future. Although not as aggressively, we expect the 5–10 pound category to continue to grow as well."

Regionally, the research finds the United States to be the worldwide projector volume leader, and that trend will continue. However, in terms of growth, the emerging Asia/Pacific region will come on strong over the next five years and experience a healthy compound annual growth rate of 44.2% from 2002–2006, according to IDC.

Other key findings: PC vendors, which are now entering the projector market, will take a significant share away from traditional projector vendors; purchasers are demanding (and getting) higher resolution and higher brightness projectors at attractive price points; PC distribution channels are ideal for sales of small form-factor projectors; the education market will focus on form factor concerns as much as price concerns; and perhaps most significant to SGHT readers, although it's starting out small, the home theater projector is beginning to have a significant impact on most projector vendors' plans.

An example of this latest prediction is an announcement last week that Epson America (which traditionally serves the business projector market) has unveiled its first-ever home theater product with the introduction of the PowerLite TW-100 video projector. The company says that by combining Epson's 3-LCD technology with newly-added video processing and user-friendly features, "[the TW-100] is engineered to create a dramatic theater experience in any home."

Epson introduced its first multimedia projector to the professional market back in 1995. The company's Mark Pickard says, "Now that we've gained such a prominent position in the business projector market and have become the brand of choice among so many demanding presenters and AV specialists, it's become a logical step for our display technology to expand into the home theater environment."

According to Epson, the PowerLite TW-100 projects high-resolution video at HDTV 720p native resolution and in a 16:9 wide format aspect ratio, and also sports a 600:1 contrast ratio. . The company claims that its 3-LCD technology also gives it the ability to reproduce "a broader color palette than other technologies on the market." Epson says the projector is HDTV-ready and supports other popular digital video signals such as 480i, 480p, and 1080i. The aspect ratio is also adjustable and the company says that "since many of today's DVDs offer a variety of aspect ratios to choose from, users have the ability to fill an entire 16:9 wide-format screen without having to look at large black borders."

Epson says that the core of its newly enhanced video technology lies in a Faroudja DCDi Advanced Image Processor. "This chip helps reduce the 'jaggies' that are often caused by converting an interlaced scan conversion to that of a progressive scan conversion," explains Epson. The company says the processor also features a 3D/YC separation function that reduces color noise at the color boundaries of a composite video signal to reproduce sharper and smoother images.

The heart of Epson's new projector is a three-LCD projection system, each with 1280 x 720 resolution. The projector has a 150-watt UHE lamp with a 3000 hour life and is expected to be available in July 2002 for $4995 (estimated street price) with a two-year limited warranty.