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Laptops: Tight supply of screens could mean fewer holiday discounts

September 20, 2006, 6:38 AM UTC

Some news from a tracking firm that could put a damper on your year-end laptop buying spree: Don’t expect to see prices dive too far.

The reason is that the market for TFT-LCD panels is tightening. Since folks in the industry are expecting a pretty decent holiday season, there’s been a run on the flat panels that go into TVs, desktop displays and laptops, according to research firm iSuppli.

“Lower system prices are expected to boost demand considerably, especially during the holiday season,” Sweta Dash, director of LCD and projection research at iSuppli, said in a release. “The problem is that due to a shift among suppliers to making larger-size, wider-format panels, supply is expected to fall short of demand, which may throw a wrench into how large of a rebound this market will experience. If panel price increases are too high, too fast, they may curtail demand before it reaches its full potential.”

As an example, iSuppli points to the 17-inch monitor panel, a component that had an average selling price of $102 in July. Now they cost 18 to 23 percent more – in the range of $120 to $125. You can imagine what that means for laptops – with that kind of price pressure at the component level, it gets tougher to trim that extra $50 off the price.

So the bargain laptop you were hoping to snap up at $449 might be $499, or the road warrior laptop you were hoping would drop in price by 100 bucks might not – particularly if memory prices are seeing similar action. No word on that yet.

Hey, if it’s any consolation, I think Dell’s probably going to come out swinging this holiday season with budget-priced AMD systems and a hunger for market share. So my money would be on laptop prices being pretty darn low, despite these screen supply issues.