The recent plethora of LCD TVs and associated price-tumbling has got me thinking. I believe we are experiencing a sea-change in the consumer electronics segment the likes of which hasn't been seen before, and I think the traditional "A-brand" players are in for a big, big shock. You may remember that in the mid 90's The monopolies and mergers commission investigated the likes of Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba, Philips etc because they were refusing to supply products to the new US-style warehouse outlets (Costco etc). There was also much talk that high street dealers were incentivised not to discount their products under any circumstances. And until recently, anyone who took a stroll down Tottenham Court Road was left in no doubt that such activities still took place (alledgedly) - your average A-brand TV was exactly the same price in every shop you went in. This was fill-your-boots time for the manufacturers. Big fat profit margins and double gin and tonics all-round! But oh what a difference 12 months makes. The advent of LCD TVs has all of a sudden introduced a whole host of new competitors into the consumer electronics arena - namely, the computer manufacturers. These guys have been making high quality, low cost LCD monitors for many years now and with "convergence" the new big thing, the switch to TV manufacturing was both an obvious one, and a very easy one to implement. And the implications for the consumer are massive. Computer manufacturers operate with much, much lower profit margins than the consumer electronics boys. There's been much debate on here about the "inferior" quality of the new "low cost" LCD TVs on the market, but this simply isn't the case. If you compare the specs, the cheaper products are every bit as good as the more expensive "branded" products. Which shouldn't surprise anyone as they are all made in the same factories out in Taiwan. The only difference being the profit margin expectation of the CE and computer manufacturers. So what next? Well the traditional players are in for a shock. Whilst its only the likes of Viewsonic and Relisys making a noise in their market-place, they can probably still get away with relatively inflated prices, but when the big 3, namely Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Acer get their act together, the consumer will sit up and take notice. Remember, these guys are trusted brands in many households already, so when the stampede begins for HD-ready TVs there's every likelihood that Jo Bloggs consumer will vote with his wallet leaving Sony, Panasonic, Hitachi et al very ashen-faced. The next 12 months is going to be a whole lot of fun.