2011 Large-Area TFT LCD Shipments

NPD DisplaySearch:

[…] large-area (9”+) TFT LCD shipments reached 702.8 million in 2011, which is merely 6% Y/Y growth, while revenues declined 12% Y/Y, to $75.5 billion.

As far back as I can remember the term ‘large-area’ referred to LCDs that were 10 inches and larger. The term ‘large-area’ was doomed from the beginning: Area is two dimensional and the result of an x and a y. But ‘large-area’ references a single dimension, the diagonal length of the display, and now someone has tinkered with the definition of ‘large-area’. It was doomed, and now is doubly doomed.

Why did NPD DisplaySearch change the definition from 10 inches and larger to 9 inches and larger? Here’s my guess: The iPad. The 9.7-inch iPad is huge. By lumping it into ‘large-area’ the entire category grows, by quite a bit. Unfortunately the opposite happens for the small/medium reports. Reminds of the phrase, “There are liars, damn liars, and…” market researchers.

The next portion of the announcement I have a problem with is unit shipments. In the case of a ‘large-area’ unit shipment, a unit can be a 55-inch LCD TV panel or a 9.7-inch iPad panel. The difference between one million 55-inch LCD TV panels versus one million 9.7-inch iPad panels is big. A unit is not a unit is not a unit. Without a detailed breakdown in size a lump sum unit shipment number means very little.

And then there’s the term shipped, as in shipped into the channel. Thanks to Samsung we are reminded that the distinction between shipped and sales is critical to understanding business performance. The distinction is important because a very large shipped number might actually mean poor performance. The difference between shipped and sales is inventory, which is not mentioned at all.

So when a market research firm announces that ‘large-area’ TFT LCD shipments grew 6% Y/Y to 702.8 million units in 2011 what does that actually mean? Nothing.