Nvidia turned more than a few heads earlier this year at CES when it announced plans to develop its own graphics-enabled microprocessor (MPU) using ARM technology, a decision that so far has been met with optimism by industry analysts, including iSuppli's Matthew Wilkins.
"Nvidia's entry into the microprocessor segment makes sense, despite the current market dominance of Intel and AMD," said Matthew Wilkins, principal analyst for compute platforms at IHS. "In notebook PCs alone, IHS iSuppli research forecasts the penetration rate for graphics-enabled MPUs will increase to 82.9 percent by 2014, up from 39 percent in 2010. This presents an opening for Nvidia to make inroads into the MPU market."
The obvious challenge here is in software. Nvidia has steadfastly denied plans to develop a x86 processor, and going with ARM's architecture will prove an uphill battle, albeit not as steep as, say, 12 months ago. Microsoft is building a version of Windows for ARM hardware, and also plans to port its Office productivity suite over as well. Between Nvidia's hardware and Microsoft's software support, it's conceivable that developers will make the jump without dragging their feet.
The sultan of search (that would be Google, in case there was any doubt) continues to stuff its pockets with more advertising dollars, and if iSuppli's numbers are right, Google just expanded its lead in the search advertising market.
Google will soon release its fourth quarter and full-year earnings reports, and based on the results for the first three quarters of 2010, iSuppli estimates Google's full-year search revenue to be around $25.4 billion. That's a more than 20 percent increase over 2009. Perhaps more importantly, that means Google would have increased its market share lead by claiming an 83 percent stake, up from 81 percent in 2009.
"With the arrival of Microsoft’s Bing and rising competitive obstacles in fast-growing regions including China, Russia and South Korea, 2010 seemed like it might be the year that Google would surrender some of its dominance in the global search advertising market," said Vincent Létang, senior analyst and head of advertising research for IHS. "However, even amid these challenges, Google managed to outgrow the overall market. What makes Google’s outperformance even more impressive is that it came during a year when the overall market revenue rose at an impressive double-digit percentage following a slowdown in 2009."
Impressive indeed. According to iSuppli, the global search advertising market was worth $30.4 billion in 2010, leaving less than $5 billion for any company not named Google.
Things have already gone from bad to worse to downright despairing, and unfortunately for DRAM makers, relief is no where in sight. Just when you thought things may have hit rock bottom, market research firm iSuppli says there's going to be a "huge drop in average selling prices" for 2011.
"After the boom year of 2010, the DRAM market is waking up to 2011 with a hangover," said Mike Howard, senior analyst for DRAM and memory at IHS. "With supply exceeding demand, pricing will decline precipitously for the year, causing revenue to decrease."
A hangover might be putting it nicely. According to iSuppli's figures, worldwide DRAM revenue in 2011 will drop to $35.5 billion, representing an 11.8 percent slide from $40.3 billion in 2010, and will continue to drop through at least 2013.
"While bad news for suppliers, the retreat in the DRAM ASP augurs well for consumers," Howard said. "The price of a 2GB module currently is less than half its level six months ago, a development sure to lead to higher DRAM content in PCs for 2011 and provide consumers with more memory per machine. Furthermore, the new predominant memory configuration in 2011 will be 4GB, to be loaded in half of all desktops PCs, with 2GB systems declining to just 6 percent of the total market by the end of the year."
If there's a bright spot for DRAM makers, it's the mobile market. According to iSuppli, smartphones and tablets in 2011 will combine to outship PCs by more than 50 million units. Both of these sectors will help slow the bleeding.
DRAM pricing continues to free fall to new lows, declining yet again in December and plummeting to their lowest point of the year, according to data by market research firm iSuppli.
"DRAM prices in general have been affected by soft PC demand -- especially during the first half of 2010 -- as well as by greater supply of commodity memory following a solid increase in bit shipments during the second half," said Mike Howard, principal analyst for DRAM and memory at iSuppli. "That lethal combination of falling demand and growing supply has coalesced to place a great deal of pressure on DRAM ASPs."
By the second week of December, the contract price for a 2GB DDR3 module was only $21, more than 50 percent below the $44.40 price point of just six months ago. The same trend applies to DDR2 modules, which dropped from $33.80 in June to $21.50 in December.
The good thing about hitting rock bottom is that there's no where to go but up, right? That might be the case, but the DRAM market has yet to completely bottom out. According to Howard, there's absolutely nothing to stop prices from plunging even further during the next six months.
It's the same old song and tune for the DRAM market, which continues to sing the blues over falling chip prices. How bad is it? According to market research firm iSuppli, "DRAM continued to head down a grim path of unstoppable decline in December." Yikes.
It's the lowest point of the year for DRAM makers, who had plenty of low points in 2010. By the second week in December, the contract price for a 2GB DDR3 DRAM module was only $21, down more than half of the $44.40 selling price just six months ago. And it's not just DDR3; DDR2 modules are suffering the same kind of price drops.
"DRAM pricing appears to be reaching critical levels, and nothing is likely to stop prices from continuing their slide in the next six months," iSuppli says. "In particular, as DDR3 reaches $1 per gigabyte, DRAM manufacturers operating at the 60-nanometer (nm) process node will start to face the painful economics of costs exceeding prices. In 2008 when prices dropped below $1 per gigabyte, manufacturers with lagging process technology were forced to throttle down production."
Things don't look to improve for DRAM makers through at least the first half of 2011. On the flip side, PC makers have been able to load up machines with more RAM without jacking up the price.
After noting a decline in hard drive shipments back in the second quarter of this year, HDD makers are ready to celebrate a "happy holiday" as shipments end the year on a rally, iSuppli says.
"The fourth quarter increases in HDD shipments and revenue reflect positive developments on several fronts, including the stabilization of prices, strong demand from the enterprise segment, and a return to normal inventory levels," said Fang Zhang, analyst for storage systems at iSuppli.
The market research firm says HD shipments will reach an estimated 169.2 million units in the fourth quarter, up 2.2 percent from one quarter ago. Equally important, revenue is expected to jump 2.1 percent to $8.9 billion.
Market research firm iSuppli declared a "microprocessor stalemate" between Intel and AMD, neither of which was able to wrestle any significant share from the other in the third quarter.
Intel's global microprocessor share dropped ever-so-slightly from 80.4 percent in the second quarter to 80.1 percent in the third, while AMD went from 11.5 percent to 11.3 percent. In other words, both chip makers barely budged.
"In reality, the share changes in the third quarter from the two incumbents were extremely small and not at all significant," said Matthew Wilkins, principal analyst for compute platforms at iSuppli. "What is significant, however, is that neither company has been able to take any sizable share away from the other. One reason is that each company offers well-matched competitive product portfolios. Another reason is that end markets are not undergoing significant changes in market share of product lineup that would impact microprocessor market share."
AMD fans may want to delcare a tiny victory for the third quarter after having dropped its share 0.1 percent less than Intel, while Intel's fan base will point to the fact that AMD's share is down 0.8 percent from 2009, while Intel's is down just 0.1 percent.
Nothing to get excited about either way, though 2011 could be quite a different story.
"There remains a very competitive situation between the two dominant suppliers," Wilkins added. "In particular, we look forward to seeing the effect that AMD's forthcoming Fusion products might have on the share situation for these two mega-players."
Have you found a good deal on an LCD monitor or large screen television? Perhaps you should pounce. According to market research firm iSuppli, global pricing for LCD panels used in televisions and computers is rising in 2010.
Keeping things in perspective, iSuppli is only quoting a 0.9 percent price hike for desktop PC monitors, notebooks, and televisions, but what troubles the research firm is that this is the first increase in pricing since the end of the first quarter. Ever since March of this year, panel pricing has been falling every month.
"With buyers preparing for this year's holiday season, the introduction of new models in early 2011 and for the Lunar New Year in February, brands and manufacturers alike are starting to buy panels again after maintaining strict inventory control for several months," said Sweta Dash, senior director for LCD research at iSuppli. "This, combined with lower level of panel inventories, is causing pricing to rise after several months of decline."
Looking ahead, iSuppli says LCD manufacturers plan to ramp up production, but it's still uncertain what effect that will have in December and the months to follow.
Market research firm iSuppli is the bearer of bad news, that is if you're rooting for solid state drives (SSDs) to knock their mechanical brethren from the storage throne. According to iSuppli, even though SSDs made some inroads into a handful of influential segments, they aren't likely to replace HDDs in key storage sectors anytime soon.
By the time 2010 comes to a close, SSDs will have tripled their penetration rates in both the enterprise server and desktop markets. Sounds impressive, but even after tripling up, SSDs still will only account for 1.7 percent (enterprise) and 1.2 percent (desktop). Even among notebooks, where SSD penetration is the highest, these drives will account for 2.3 percent of the storage market.
"SSDs will continue to make inroads into these three target markets (enterprise, desktops, notebooks) from 2009 to 2014 -- each segment proceeding at its own rate, but all showing an unmistakable pattern of growth," iSuppli notes. "Yet, SSDs pose no threat at all to the dominion of HDD. While SSD shipments will reach 7.2 million units in 2010, HDD shipments will total a mammoth 662 million."
As always, the roadblock for SSDs is price. According to iSuppli, the OEM cost of a 256GB notebook SSD in October was nearly $400, compared to a 320GB notebook HDD that sells for less than $50.
"All told, iSuppli does not expect SSD to threaten HDD dominance in the overall PC, server, and storage markets within the next five years," iSuppli said.
Global PC shipments in the third quarter continued to defy all the negative reports emanating from motherboard makers and the overall "chorus of negativity regarding the market," rising 7 percent sequentially and by 10.3 percent compared to one year ago, according to numbers released by market research firm iSuppli.
"From warnings issued by Taiwanese motherboard makers, to word of declining exports from China, to mounting concerns over consumer spending, there has been a drumbeat of negative news regarding the PC market," said Matthew Wilkins, principal analyst, compute platforms research, for iSuppli. "However, even with consumer confidence shaken by government austerity measures, individuals and businesses continued to purchase PCs in the third quarter, driving up global shipments smartly."
It wasn't just one specific segment propping up the entire market, either. iSuppli says desktops, notebooks, and entry-level servers all rose both on a sequential and a year-or-year basis in Q3. And for those who continue to ring the death knell for desktops, nothing could be further from the truth. Desktop PCs showed the most growth, with shipments jumping 11 percent compared to the second quarter. Mobile PC shipments, on the other hand, rose a comparatively mild 4 percent, though up 15 percent from one year ago.