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Analysis: the future of screens & graphics

By year's end 20 percent of desktops will have widescreen monitors

By the end of 2007, widescreen monitors will be on 20 percent of desktops, according to Chris Connery of DisplaySearch. The other big trend is set to be bigger, brighter and cheaper LCDs. Rhoda Alexander, monitor research director at iSuppli, says that 78 percent of monitors were 17in or smaller in 2005. She predicts that by 2010, fewer than 20 percent of monitors will be that small. Resolutions will improve as screens grow, although only 4 percent of today's monitors feature resolutions higher than SXGA (1,280x1,024). This figure will be 23 percent in 2010.

Screens 25in and larger should become common, says Connery. In addition, thanks to LED backlights – available now only in super-premium displays – buyers who are willing to pay extra will have a brighter monitor that displays colours more accurately.

Technology goes organic

Emerging technologies such as Oled (organic LED) and LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon) will find homes in certain niches: Oled on tiny displays such as those of MP3 players and cameras; LCoS on projection TVs. While Asus has just announced its G range of laptops with embedded Oled displays in their cases, neither technology is likely to have much impact on desktop displays. LCD screens will rule because of their availability and affordability.

Flexible displays that can be bent or rolled – see Philips' prototype, above – will find a piece of the market, starting in areas such as retail outlets' shelf price tags that can be instantly and easily updated.
There's no end in sight to the PC's increasing hunger for more graphical power. As nVidia chief scientist David Kirk says, "We're years and years away from being able to do everything we'd like to be able to do."

Graphics chip makers are busy preparing for DirectX 10.0 and its promised 8X performance improvement over DirectX 9.0. Expect nVidia and ATI to transition to GPUs (graphics processing units) that use unified shader architectures featuring general-purpose pipelines that can process pixels, geometry or physics code. Future GPUs will pile on more and more of these pipelines, enabling truly amazing effects. Dedicated physics cards that supplement your graphics card, such as the Ageia PhysX, may become more prevalent.

Products such as the nVidia Quadro Plex may be a sign of the way that the market is headed. The $17,000 (£9,000) device is an external graphics system that can perform up to 80 billion calculations per second – 10 times what today's top PC graphics cards can manage (see page 194). Experts also believe the next generation of cards could consume up to a blazing 200W of power and require external components.

GPGPU (general purpose GPU), meanwhile, uses the custom computing capabilities of a graphics card in a non-gaming environment. Adobe has been using GPGPU for functions such as video transitions in some form or other since 1995.

Read more: the future of technology revealed


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