Flat-panel monitors could cost as little as £350 by Christmas 2001, a top IBM official has predicted.

Tom Martin, director of IBM's flat-panel program, expects that by next year, some 15-inch LCD monitors will sell for under £350 – down from the current price of around £700 – or about twice the anticipated price of quality 17-inch CRTs, which have a comparable viewing area. He said: "Flat panels have the opportunity to be the technology gift of 2001."

Martin was among several executives on a panel looking into LCD monitors at the Stanford Resources 17th annual Flat Information Displays conference. Stanford Resources is a display-industry research firm, and its director of monitor research, Rhoda Alexander, is also positive in her opinion of the LCD market.

"This market really can take off if the supply is there to match it," Alexander said.

Thanks to an influx of new manufacturing facilities and improvements in yields and manufacturing processes, supplies are expected to increase significantly over the next year. The resulting competition will lower prices in all categories, she added.

Stanford Resources predicts average 15-inch display prices will fall to about £400 a year from now, then will level off as supplies begin to tighten again.

At these prices, LCD demand could soar from today's relatively modest levels, Alexander said. She reminded attendees that while people were slow to adopt colour CRT monitors, once the shift from monochrome to colour started, the bulk of the transition occurred over three years.