Pretend it's a tablet

I have a pet project for a technology journalist with an investigative bent: figure out why 30" monitors are the only computer technology that has increased in price over the past 3 years.

My three-year old Dell 3007WFP monitor at home has a dead backlight. So I am left with this odd situation:

  • Replacing the monitor with the current model (Dell 3011U) will cost $1,150. That is more than I paid for the 3007WFP three years ago ($1,050).
  • Repairing monitors is basically a lost art since, outside of the 30" class, monitors are typically $200 or less. At that price point, any laborer in the United States that specializes in monitor repair would exceed the replacement cost in a few hours of labor. In 2011, monitors are essentially disposable electronics much like DVD players and Android phones. If they are out of warranty, just toss & replace.

Used, with a working backlight, the 3007WFP fetches $700 on eBay. That's right, after 3 years of use, a 3007WFP has lost only a third of its original value.

I can't think of anything else in the world of computer technology that behaves this way. $5,000 servers depreciate to less than $700 after three years. In the course of a year and a half, the infinitely-trendy tablet computer has dropped from ~$600 (iPad) to ~$200 (Fire / Nook). A Xeon E3-1220L processor that will run circles around a Xeon from three years ago while consuming a quarter of the electricity is also one third the price.

But for $1,150 in 2011, you can buy a 30" monitor featuring a 2560x1600 resolution for only $100 more than a model introduced in December 2007 which sold for $1,050. But at least the new model has a much better resolution than the old model's 2560x1600. Oh hold on, no, it's exactly the same.

In most areas, the early adopters and fanatics buy the high-end devices, which in turn drives manufacturers to gradually increase supply and develop economies of scale, which in turn drive price downward. Somehow it seems the demand for 30" monitors has actually decreased over the span of three years. And really, can you blame anyone? In 2007, you had to pay a $500 price premium to leap from 24" to 30". Now it's a $975 jump from $150 to $1,175. Or in other words, you could buy nearly eight 24" monitors for the price of one 30".

Technology journalists: how did this happen? Maybe you can work on this in between telling me about this week's exciting new platform on which to play Angry Birds?
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