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.
The bean counters over at Mercury Research just finalized their "PC Graphics Market Share Update" report for the third quarter of 2010, which for the second consecutive quarter shows AMD at the front of the discrete graphics pack, The Inquirerreports.
AMD managed to add 5.6 percentage points to its market share tally and now commands 61.9 percent of the market.
"AMD is the clear leader in DirectX 11 graphics technology with more than 25 million DirectX 11-capable units shipped to date, and the Mercury Research results are indicative of our continued focus on delivering compelling graphics technology to both notebook and desktop markets," said Matt Skynner, corporate VP and general manager of the GPU Division at AMD."
AMD benefited in large part from its mobile graphics unit. Going forward, AMD is banking on its newly released HD 6800 series to end the year on a strong note.
The latest global PC shipment numbers from Gartner and IDC have probably confirmed recent fears that tablets (effectively the iPad for now) are eating into secondary PC sales. Gartner expects media tablets to get even more ravenous as time goes on. The market research firm has forecast that media tablet sales will touch 19.5 million in 2010.
Next year might be 2011 according to the Gregorian calendar, and the year of the Rabbit as per the Chinese, but it’d truly be the year of the media tablet if Gartner’s sales forecast is proved correct. It expects tablet sales “to total 54.8 million units in 2011, up 181 percent from 2010.”
“Mini notebooks will suffer from the strongest cannibalization threat as media tablet average selling prices drop below $300 over the next 2 years,” Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, is quoted as saying in a Gartner release.
“The all-in-one nature of media tablets will result in the cannibalization of other consumer electronics devices such as e-readers, gaming devices and media player.”
Everywhere you turn it's 3D this and 3D that, but despite the marketing blitz, 3D technology isn't winning over consumers in droves. That includes the mobile PC market where 3D is having a tough time getting established.
According to reports, global sales of 3D notebooks in 2010 will only reach 150,000 to 200,000 units, which is partly the result of targeting mainly high-end gamers. For example, HP just recently introduced a 17.3-inch Envy 3D notebook that sells for between $1,500 and $2,000. With or without 3D, that's a tough sell with sub-$1,000 notebooks sporting respectable specs these days.
There are a handful of lower-end 3D notebooks in the pipeline too, most of which feature passive polarization glasses rather than Nvidia's active shutter glasses. As 2011 rolls around, we expect to see vendors targeting mainstream audiences with 3D notebooks, and we wouldn't be surprised to see a handful of 3D tablets emerge.
At what price point would you consider a 3D notebook, if at all?
Right now you should be thinking either one of two things (or both): 'What the frak is a "superphone?"' and 'Is 100 million units by 2015 a lot?'
Let's start with the first. According to Alex Spektor, an analyst at Strategy Analytics, which came up with the number, "We define a superphone as a high-end smartphone with a supersized display above 4 inches and a super-fast processor greater than 1GHz."
By strict definition then, all those 1GHz Snapdragon and Hummingbird powered smartphones with enormous screens don't qualify, though we're not so sure Spektor meant dismiss those. In any event, to answer the second question, 100 million is a lot, at least in terms of growth rate.
"We forecast global superphone shipments to grow 550 percent from 15 million units in 2010 to 100 million by 2015," Spektor added. "Major brands, such as Samsung, HTC, Android, Nvidia, an Texas Instruments are driving the high-growth superphone category in developed markets."
The research assumes that consumers want bigger phones to begin with, and according to Neil Mawston, Director at Strategy Analytics, "Superphones are at the forefront of computerizing the handset market. Superphone models, such as the Samsung Galaxy S and HTC Evo 4G, are driving more PC-like features into the hands of mobile consumers."
Looks like those 1GHz models to qualify. With that being the case, do you own or plan to purchase a superphone? If so, which model?
We're starting to see some non-Apple-y tablets peek into the market place, like the eLocity A7 unit that's now available for preorder. That means competition will start to heat up for the iPad, which up to this point has had the tablet market mainly to itself. How will the iPad fare in 2011?
According to UBS Investment Research, the iPad will continue to fly off virtual and brick-and-mortar shelves for a long while to come. UBS reckons Apple could move 28 million iPads in 2011, enough to affect the sales of lower end PCs.
"Sales of traditional notebooks appear to be feeling pressure from the iPad, causing a scramble by vendors to launch iPad-like tablets," UBS Investment Research analyst Maynard Um wrote. "We believe that a majority of this impact is occurring on the lower end of PC sales as the iPad is priced close enough to this range that it becomes attractive to consumers looking to make purchases within this segment."
Naturally, that would be just fine with Apple, which doesn't really dabble in the low-end PC market anyway.
"If it turns out that the iPad cannibalizes PCs that, I think, is fantastic for us, because there are a lot of PCs to cannibalize," Apple COO Tim Cook during a recent earnings call. "It's still a big market."
Hewlett Packard (HP) expects to become the world's second largest supplier of netbooks in 2011, and should the company get there, they should consider sending a bottle of Cristal to Intel, the world's No. 1 chip maker. It only seems fitting, considering Intel just shipped a large number of its new dual-core Atom N550 processors to HP for $65, representing a significant 25 percent savings over the chip's official $86 price tag.
As it currently stands, Acer, Samsung, and Asus are the three largest netbook suppliers in the world, in that order. MSI could have been in the mix too, but the company is putting on the brakes somewhat citing concerns over market demand for dual-core netbooks. Instead, MSI is reportedly stepping back to focus on single-core units, and eventually will exit the market in favor of traditional notebooks.
Maybe the tech recession is finally over, or perhaps it just couldn't get any worse. Either way, worldwide PC processor shipments and revenues climbed by 3.6 percent and 6.2 percent, respectively, in the second quarter of 2010, according to market research firm IDC.
"Such a sequential increase in PC processor shipments alone would have been enough to conclude that the first half was strong for the market," said Shane Rau director of Semiconductors: Personal Computing research at IDC. "However, a modest rise in revenues, too, points directly to a rise in ASPs. System makers bought more and higher-priced PC processors in the second quarter than in the first. Digging a little deeper into the numbers shows that they bought more mobile processors and more server processors, while desktop processors remained flat."
As the IDC reports it, the desktop sector continued to struggle with a 0.1 percent decline on quarter. Mobile PC processor shipments, on the other hand, rose by 6.5 percent, while the server market saw a 6.1 percent rise on quarter.
Following the launch of Apple's iPad, there was some question as to the future of dedicated eBook readers. After all, the iPad does a serviceable job of flipping through eBooks, and with a spate of competing tablets en route to a retail store near you by the end of 2010, where does that leave standalone readers?
In a very good position, according to Scott Liu, chairman of EPD (electrophoretic display) maker E-Ink Holding. As Liu sees it, eBook reader shipments are in position to be two to three times higher in the second half of 2010 thanks to recent price cuts by the industry's heavy hitting trio.
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Sony all recently slashed eBook reader pricing, and with some of the newer models checking in at just $140, dedicated readers are suddenly a lot more compelling. This isn't just a theory, either. As Liu points out, shipments for Amazon's 9.7-inch Kindle DX increased threefold when Amazon cut the price from $489 to $379.
According to Liu, demand for Amazon's newest Kindle models has been strong, forcing E-Ink to ramp up its production efforts to keep up with client's orders. And if the market continues this way, Liu sees reader pricing dropping to sub-$100 levels in the not-too-distant future.
Notebook vendors are scrambling trying to figure out why demand has weakened to the point where they're suddenly stuck with a backlog of inventory. In both North America and Europe, notebook inventory levels are sitting at 5-6 weeks, compared to the normal level of 3-4 weeks, Digitimes reports.
This could simply be the fallout of a slowed down economic recovery, or it could be that consumers are looking to spend their money on other mobile devices, like the suddenly affordable spate of eBook readers or upcoming flurry of tablet PCs.
Either way, notebook vendors are holding out hope that the downfall in sales is only temporary and will recover this month and next. At the same time, Digitimes points out that downstream notebook makers have reduced their component orders in July, which suggests that they could be in for a slow summer and back-to-school shopping season.