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Sunday, 10 March, 2002, 08:28 GMT
The future of computing is flat
Frigidaire concept refrigerator with integrated PC, Frigidaire
Flat panels could lead to big changes in your home
test hello test
By BBC News Online's Ash Mishra
As the price of flat panel computer monitors falls, you may soon find yourself using computers in the kitchen.

Generally, these thin-film transistor liquid-crystal displays have been limited to laptops or found on the desks of big corporations.

So far, most people have not been able to afford flat panels for their home computers, as they can be up to eight times as expensive as traditional monitors.

But this is changing. As prices drop, flat panels are appearing in the home and in several new products.

Part of the home

Electronic appliance maker Frigidaire recently tested a concept refrigerator with an integrated computer and touch-screen display in 50 Danish homes.

Connected to the internet, the fridge allows people to browse the web and read e-mail in the kitchen.

Infogear's iPhone, Infogear
Everyone to the chat room
The built-in computer also lets people store recipes, check their appointments, and even scan products with a barcode reader to put them on a shopping list.

Telephone manufacturers have for years been offering devices with small displays for call-waiting and interactive address-books. But recently, several telephones have begun offering the ability to surf the web and do e-mail on larger screens.

MDTel's iPhone integrates a web browser and e-mail software with a touch-sensitive colour display and keyboard so you can surf from the sofa.

It is a sign of how the living room is changing. Many television makers such as Phillips and Sony have offered flat panel televisions for several years now.

With prices ranging from £2,000 to £15.000, they are expensive. But they also offer sharper and brighter images, as well as consuming less energy.

Invading the home

Flat panels will spearhead the spread of electronic gadgets throughout the home.

As they are small and need little power, they are being built into two-way messaging devices, security alarms and even electronic photo frames.

For example, an American company called Ceiva sells a five-by-seven-inches (18 by 13 centimetres) digital photo frame with an internet connection.

The frame lets you download and see a new picture everyday.

Sci-fi look

The desktop computer market, the main market for traditional cathode ray tube monitors, is also poised to explode.

Apple's new iMac, Apple
Apple's new iMac. The future?
Only around 10% of the 108.4 million displays shipped in 2001 were flat panels. But this still amounts to a 131% growth in a year.

Flat panels are expected to become more prevalent, making up more than half of all the displays sold.

Several companies such as IBM and Compaq have been offering integrated flat panel computers with offerings like the NetVista and iPaq.

Apple Computer, with the introduction of their latest iMac, has gone one step further, and committed itself to producing a line-up of flat panel computers.

Both consumers and enthusiasts see flat panel monitors as attractive replacements over bulky monitors.

The allure of flat panels is their size, as they take up less than a third of the space of traditional monitors and are a quarter of the weight.

Their slim Star Trek look has led them to quickly become a fashion statement that is practical as well.

See also:

15 Jan 02 | Sci/Tech
Flat-screen iMac wows design guru
08 Jan 02 | Sci/Tech
Gates aims at your living room
21 Jan 02 | Sci/Tech
Prêt-à-porter computers
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