The Consumer Electronics Show is undoubtedly the biggest tech event at the start of each new year. It usually offers the tech community a titillating precursor of things to follow later in the year. So what should one expect to see at this year’s event? Sadly for those of you already feeling inundated, CES 2011 is likely to be dominated by tablets.
Asustek will be unveiling a 12-inch enterprise tablet running Windows 7. Rest of its lineup will be made up of a couple of 10-inchers and one 7-inch tablet. One of those 10-inchers is said to feature the Windows 7-Oak Trail combo, whereas the other is built around Nvidia’s Tegra 2 platform and Android.
MSI will also be bringing a 10-inch Wintel-based tablet to the show floor. Also on display will be engineering samples of the company’s ARM-based Android tablets.
It hasn't always been smooth sailing for motherboard makers in 2010, but at least for the month of September, all the major players managed to increase revenues, most by 25 percent or more.
Pegatron showed the least amount of month-on-month growth of the bunch at 4.6 percent, followed by Asus with 5.79 percent (Asus is up year-over-year 45.42 percent).
ECS recorded the highest month-on-month revenue growth of them all by jumping up 33.27 percent. No other company needed it more, as ECS is also the only one to post a year-on-year loss, with overall revenue down 8.38 percent.
Gigabyte posted September revenues of $152.7 million, up 25.51 percent on month and 0.2 percent on year, while MSI posted $266.2 million in revenue for the month, up 26.22 percent.
The bean counters at Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, and every other first-tier motherboard maker are working overtime crunching numbers and trying to get a pulse on the mobo market.
June hasn't been kind to any of the motherboard makers except MSI, which saw revenues jump 13.05 percent over the previous month. ECS took the biggest hit, recording a drop of 17.73 percent, followed by Asus at 5.53 percent. Gigabyte, Pegatron, and ASRock also skidded backwards to the tune of 5.48 percent, 3.1 percent, and 0.94 percent, respectively.
But while June wasn't particularly kind to most of the major motherboard players, they've all seen positive gains for the year, except for ASRock, which is down 11.94 percent. Asus is the biggest winner, having increased its revenues to 68.62 percent on year, while Pegatron and MSI recorded gains of 20.4 percent and 19.03 percent, respectively. Everyone else saw double digit gains as well.
ECS may not be on your radar when shopping for new computer parts, but it may end up in your system anyway. According to reports, Asus plans to outsource a portion of its production of motherboards and videocards to ECS. If true, it's somewhat of a curious decision, given that the two companies are rivals of sorts, but apparently Asus wants to wean itself off of Pegatron Technology, at least partially, industry sources say.
None of this is official yet and Asus is keeping tight lipped, but the company did recently add Foxconn and Quanta as production partners for notebooks and Eee PCs, as well as employed Foxconn as its OEM maker of Garmin-Asus smartphones.
While Asus is looking to expand its production relationships, Pegatron has been picking up the slack by soliciting business from motherboard and videocard orders from Gigabyte, the sources added.
Like Foxconn, ECS has mostly moved away from its branded hardware business and instead now focuses on building products for the OEM channel. And come September, clients in the U.S. and Europe will start to receive 8-inch versions of the company's 9.7-inch E-Ink based prototype ebook reader.
Not a whole lot is known about the upcoming ebook reader, though a company rep did mention that it will come equipped with a Marvell CPU and PVI E-Ink e-paper. It will also sport 3G, Wi-Fi, and WiMAX support.
ECS also had on display at Computex a 10.1-inch tablet, the A102. Essentially a netbook in slate form, the A102 features an Intel Atom N450 processor (1.66GHz, 533MHz FSB, 512KB L2 cache), up to 2GB of DDR2-667 (it's unclear whether or not the RAM is user-upgradeable), 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 3G, two USB ports, SD card slot, 3.5mm headphone jack, and both Windows XP Home Edition and Windows 7 Home Basic OS options.
Entry level motherboard makers are hoping February is nothing more than anomaly, because if it isn't, it's going to be a long year. This especially applies to ECS and ASRock, both of which noted over 20 percent on-month drops in revenue, which they attribute to a combination of fewer working days and labor shortages in China.
ASRock was hit the hardest out of the two, noting a 25 percent on-month drop. On the year, however, ASRock is up 16 percent. ECS, meanwhile, posted consolidated revenues of about $112 million, a drop of 20.34 percent on month, but down 35.51 percent on year.
Compared to the top-tier motherboard makers, only Gigabyte saw declines as sharp as ASRock and ECS, noting a 23.84 percent on-month drop. Asus' revenue fell by 10 percent, while MSI's fell by just 6.48 percent. Out of all the mobo makers, only ECS noted a year-on-year decline, while almost every other vendor saw double-digit growth.
If there's something in the water at ECS, it must not taste very good, at least not in the company's notebook division. But there's probably another reason why more than 100 members of the OEM's notebook staff have resigned from the company since the second quarter of 2009.
One such reason is because Shuttle managed to pluck the ex-general manager of ECS's notebook business, who also headed up Unwill, to operate its New Notebook Ecosystem alliance. It's no coincidence that nearly half of the employees who left ECS landed at Shuttle, most of which were previously in the Uniwill team, DigiTimes reports.
The exodus has ECS scrambling to retain customers as several clients in China and South America are considering taking their business to Shuttle. And in an effort to prevent something like this from happening again, ECS has asked its current employees to agree to non-compete clauses in their employment contracts, though a representative for Taiwan's Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) warns that such clauses may not be enforceable below the management level.
November ranks as a quirky month for first-tier motherboard makers ECS and MSI, who posted mixed results. ECS said its consolidated revenues were down 3.05 percent sequentially in November, which is in contrast to revenues being up 6.16 percent for MSI.
Unfortunately for MSI, November is not indicative of the past year. MSI's November revenues tumbled 24.25 percent on year with combined revenues from January to November down 20.43 percent on year, which is by far the biggest drop out of first-tier mobo makers.
To put it into perspective, ECS posted the second worst numbers, with November revenues down 4.8 percent on year. Meanwhile, Gigabyte and Asus were both up, posting gains of 18.62 percent and 58.32 percent, respectively.
ECS, who began the year with ambitious goals, will have little to celebrate as the year comes to an end. The company estimates that its total mobo shipments for the year will reach 17.2 million, failing to meet its goal of 20 million units. ECS is also unlikely to achieve its shipment goal of four million notebooks for 2009, and is expected to fall short by about 600,000 units.
Wish to experience the blazing speeds of USB 3.0 and/or SATA 6Gbps? Or do you just want something new to brag about to your friends? If yes, then an add-on card is the way to go for you, especially if you wish to live your USB 3.0/SATA 6Gbps dream on a shoestring.
The USB 3.0 card features two ports on the rear panel. The SATA 6 Gb/s card on the other hand features one internal port and a lone eSATA 6 Gb/s connection. There is no word on the price or availability of the cards.
After a short stint in the 680i chipset era, ECS hasn't aggressively targeted the motherboard market with its own-branded mobos, and instead has focused more heavily on providing boards for OEM partners. David Chien, VP of ECS' channel business, said that's going to change in 2010 and you can expect to see a lot more ECS-branded boards aimed at both the mid-range and high-end sectors.
ECS-branded motherboard shipments will likely remain flat at 7-8 million units to close out 2009, but next year, Chien said he expects growth of around 20 percent on shipments of anywhere from 8.4 million to 9.6 million units. Most of those will be Intel-based boards, with about 20 percent aimed at the AMD crowd, he said.
You can also expect ECS to promote its use of 15-micron Gold contact technology as it looks to gain some geek cred in the higher-end crowd. According to ECS, the 15-micron gold coating applied to the CPU and memory slot pins helps prevent rusting that, um, occurs from frequently removing the CPU and memory modules. o_0