...when standard monitors have more pixels and display area (for the same diagonal size)? This has been so in the last few years and this is so now.
closed as not a real question by Mokubai, 8088, Linker3000, Journeyman Geek, Sathya♦ Jun 15 '11 at 14:42
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It's because widescreen is more popular. There are several reasons for this.
There's a prevailing idea that you can 'get more done' on a widescreen monitor.
Widescreen monitors use the same 16:9 ratio as the widescreen DVD format. Having a monitor that can display this format without the 'nasty black bars' makes having a 16:9 monitor, even with a lower resolution, attractive to the average buyer.
It costs a lot less to make a lower resolution monitor, yet they're perceived as a more advanced piece of technology, so they cost more.
It's like the iPhone and the iPod Touch. The iPhone 4 retails at over $600 with no contract, yet the same equipment without a phone antenna retails for around $200.