Published in September 2005

3LCD versus DLP
By Gary Kayye, CTS

The ‘battle’ is just beginning.

      Gentlemen, start your engines—projector engines, that is.
      Since 1998, Texas Instruments’ (TI) DLP division has out-marketed, out-maneuvered, out-published and, according to many sales figures, even out-sold LCD in virtually all of the leading projector vertical market segments. I say “virtually” because there are some markets that DLP hasn’t been playing in—but when they do, they generally win: Digital Cinema, Staging, Micro-portables, Ultra-portables, Portables.
      Ah, but LCD has dominated the meeting-room market. Not so fast: DLP has had products for that vertical market category for only 16 months. It’s too early to call a winner in this category, but right now, this is where LCD still dominates.
      Why is it that DLP dominates? Is DLP technology that much better?
      Truthfully, not really. In fact, I believe TI’s magic is not necessarily in the technology as much as it is in the marketing. Hands-down, TI’s marketing just simply BLOWS AWAY anything the individual 3LCD companies have done thus far. But earlier this year, a consortium of 3LCD projector manufacturers, including Epson, Sony, ViewSonic, Hitachi, Panasonic, Sanyo, Fujitsu, Avio and Daewoo, announced that it is fighting back with a 3LCD marketing campaign. In the initial announcement, projector market analyst Dr. William Coggshall was quoted: “3LCD is clearly the dominant microdisplay technology worldwide when you look at the total number of customers who have purchased front- and rear-projection products so far.”
      Coggshall, founder of Pacific Media Associates, went on to say, “Based on our calculations, over nine million projection products using 3LCD technology have been purchased to date, surpassing any other microdisplay technology on the market, and that figure continues to grow at a rapid pace.”
      True, but remember, 3LCD had no DLP competition for more than six years while DLP was still in development. In fact, I remember in 1996, when TI was just starting to truly launch DLP technology, I went to the DLP factory and was amazed. Not just with the technology—because LCD technology is amazing in itself—but with the marketing kit TI was readying. It included an educational CD (something no one was doing at the time), a real DLP 640x480 chip, white papers, an incredible article from Lars Yoder (still the best written on DLP technology to date) and color connection diagrams showing how the technology worked, all packaged in a colorful cardboard box. It was the most professional PR kit the professional AV industry had seen. This was real marketing.
      And, TI continued this trend with ads in major consumer print publications such as Forbes, Wired, USA Today, Fortune and many others, one of the most educational websites in the professional AV market (www.dlp.com), great tradeshow booths, parties and giveaways, and more and more educational materials.
      All the while, Sony, Epson, Hitachi, Sanyo, Mitsubishi and the like marketed their own products, but hardly ever their technology or even their technological improvements over the years.
      This was the difference. And, unfortunately for them, continues to be the difference.
      Although the 3LCD logo is nice and creative, and the small notepads and bags they gave out at InfoComm were pretty, they still lack the breadth of educational pieces that TI has. All you have to do is go to the two websites and you’ll see that for yourself: www.3lcd.com and www.dlp.com.
      But, watch out DLP: 3LCD is coming. And, instead of having the backing of just one technology giant, 3LCD claims to now have the backing of 13.
      I believe it’s going to come down to marketing. There is no denying that both technologies are great. I used to teach a class, The Perfect Image, where after evaluating all the great 3LCD and DLP projectors, the class left with the impression that 3LCD was the way to go when projecting computer images and DLP was the way to go when projecting video. But, not anymore. Now we see strengths in both for both applications: Depending on what the content looks like, it may well look better on a 3LCD projector than a DLP projector, or vice-versa.
      But, when I walk into Circuit City and listen to the salespeople talk to customers or, as recently happened to me when a neighbor asked, “Isn’t DLP technology better than LCD?”, that’s marketing—great marketing. TI’s just been out-marketing 3LCD. Now, with a consortium of LCD manufacturers making up the 3LCD brand, the battle has truly begun.
      This will be a great battle to watch, but, will I watch it in my home theater on my DLP projector or in my family room on my 45-inch LCD TV? Decisions, decisions.


Gary Kayye, a member of Sound & Communications’ Technical Council, is principal of Kayye Consulting. He was the ICIA’s 2003 Educator of the Year. Send comments to him at gkayye@testa.com.

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