There's a chill in the air that wasn't there a few weeks ago, the leaves are starting to change color, and old man Jenkins has already called the cops three times because those pesky kids keep crossing over his lawn in the wee hours of the morning. Yep, it's the end of summer and the beginning of the back-to-school shopping season. Are you prepared? Do you have all the electronics and gadgets you need to survive another semester of classes? What about your offspring?
Don't expect a powerhouse slate in this price range
How low can tablet prices go? Apparently under a Benjamin. As tablet makers dance the low-price limbo, consumers benefit from a bevy of affordable slates to choose from, even from name brand vendors. In this case, it's Hewlett-Packard that reportedly plans to build and sell a $99 tablet at Walmart as back-to-school shoppers flood the stores preparing for another school year.
In years past, Apple would dangle a free iPod touch in front of college kids shopping a computer. Combined with the 10 percent education pricing discount, it was a tantalizing offer that some students found too good to pass up, and as Fortune points out, may have served as "a gateway drug that left users craving for an iPhone." Unfortunately for the class of 2011, Apple has decided to tighten its belt this year.
Both IDC and Gartner have released their third-quarter PC shipment numbers. While their figures may be contrasting, they paint identical pictures of a quarter that saw underwhelming growth in PC shipments. According to IDC, global PC shipments grew 10.5 percent during the quarter, which is 3 percent less than its forecast. But according to Gartner, PC shipments only grew 7.6 percent during the quarter, ending up well below its estimate of 12.7 percent. Analysts blamed poor back-to-school demand for lower-than-expected results. They also feel that the tablet upsurge is bound to eat into the market for secondary PCs.
Notebook makers are going to have a tough time moving units in the second half of 2010, says Joanne Chien, senior analyst of Digitimes Research.
According to Chien, one of the culprits is weaker-than-expected back-to-school demand, which means kids will have to rough it the old fashioned way - with pen and paper.
It doesn't stop there, however. Sales are likely to stay low for the end-of-year holiday shopping season, at least compared to last year, Chien noted. This will be true in both Europe and the U.S..
How tablets fit into all this remains to be seen. Apple's iPad has already jumped out of the gates with a strong start, and several competitors are lining up slates of their own for release in the second half of 2010. Depending on who releases what, and for how much, tablets could end up one of the hottest selling tech items this holiday season.
Perspective is a funny thing. For those who are in grade school, the last thing they want to think about at this early stage of the summer is the dreaded back-to-school shopping season. But for Quanta Computer, Compal Electronics, and Wistron -- three first-tier notebook makers -- the back-to-school rush signals money in the bank.
All three notebook makers are expecting channel demand to ramp up significantly in the third quarter as a direct result of the back-to-school season. Internally, Wistron expects to see sales jump by 15-20 percent, while on the record the company is saying 10 percent. Quanta, meanwhile, predicts 10-15 percent sequential shipment growth in Q3, while Compal's expectations are the most conservative at 5-10 percent growth.
The jump in sales comes as good news to all three notebook makers, all of which have been feeling the crunch from Europe's bond crisis. But while notebook shipment performance was negatively impacted in April and May, several vendors, including HP and Acer, have since begun increasing orders and are already hammering out back-to-school promotions. HP, for example, is planning to offer a bundle that includes a Compaq series notebook with a printer, while other vendors are toying with the idea of giving away a netbook with each qualified notebook purchase.