Another sign that the tech recession is finally subsiding, worldwide semiconductor sales continue to grow and have never been higher than they were in April, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA).
SIA's numbers have global chip sales checking in at $23.6 billion in April 2010, a 2.2 percent increase from one month prior when sales hovered around $23.1 billion.
"Global sales of semiconductors grew at a healthy rate in April, surpassing the previous monthly record level of November 2007," said SIA president George Scalise. "As expected, both the year-on-year and sequential growth rates moderated slightly. The unusually high year-on-year comparison is a reflection of the trough of the recession in early 2009 compared to strong demand today."
According to Scalise, the worldwide adoption of 3G wireless communication played a big in the industry's growth, as did the consequent investment in infrastructure and recovery of demand from the enterprise, automotive, and industrial sectors.
In what research firm Gartner is calling a "robust recovery" in certain parts of the world, PC shipments around the globe ballooned to 84.3 million units in the first quarter of 2010. That's a 27.4 percent increase from the same quarter in 2009, and higher than the 22 percent growth Gartner had predicted.
"The stronger-than-expected growth was led by a robust recovery in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) PC market, which grew 24.8% in the first quarter of 2010," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. "All other regions recorded double-digit growth rates, although the US and Latin America were slightly lower than what we had expected.
"These first-quarter results indicate that the professional PC market is gradually picking up, driven by PC replacements in mature markets," Kitagawa said. "With a relatively positive macroeconomic outlook, business demand was more forthcoming. Major PC replacement demand driven by Windows 7 will become more apparent in the second half of 2010 and the beginning of 2011."
PC shipments in the US totaled 17.4 million units in the first quarter, representing a 20.2 percent growth rate from one year ago. That's the second consecutive quarter of double-digit shipment growth. Toshiba was a big benefactor in all this, which saw shipments jump by 50 percent as the result of competitive pricing and promotions.
It's important not to confuse sales with shipments. Huberty expects Apple to sell more than 6 million units this year. However, Wall Street is not as sanguine over the iPad's sales prospects and has settled for a more conservative estimate of 3-4 million units.
Acer has a long road ahead of it if the company wants to be king of the notebook hill by next year (and Acer does). As if that weren't ambitious enough, the climb to No. 1 will get a little bit steeper if Acer's notebook shipments remain flat this quarter, as the company expects they will.
According to Acer CEO Gianfranco Lanci, notebooks shipments will likely stall sequentially in Q1 2010, yet still be up 40-45 percent over the same quarter one year ago.
The company's notebook shipments might have actually fallen, if not for strong orders from Europe, the Asia Pacific, and North Pacific. And going forward, Lanci expects shipments to pick back up and grow 25-30 percent on year.
There's also been some talk of component shortages, and while Lanci admitted to a few GPU shortage issues, he expects this to become a non-issue by the end of the month.
Mobile CPU shipments grew 35.7 percent in 3Q09 to bail the industry out from what is now a receding crisis. The Intel Atom processor merits a special mention as it led the industry's comeback during the quarter. But the low average selling price of Atom processors meant that the record growth in shipments did not quite translate into record revenue.
"While Atom processors led the PC processor market to reach record unit shipments, on the revenue side, their low average selling price led to notable price erosion, more than 7 percent." said Shane Rau, director of semiconductors for personal computing research at IDC.
"The market's growth has been due to shipments of inexpensive Atom processors being sold into markets like China, which is being stimulated by government incentives there," said Rau.
Though nobody expected Windows Mobile 6.5 to break any ground, it even failed to fulfill whatever few expectations people may have had. It is hard to imagine Windows Mobile 6.5 spurring handset shipments. However, HTC CEO Peter Chou claims there is strong demand for the company’s Windows Mobile 6.5-based HTC HD2 smartphone.
Although HP and Dell are planning to introduce new ultra-thin notebook models, based on Intel’s Consumer Ultra Low-Voltage (CULV) platform, in the fourth quarter, Digitimes Research has forecast a rough road ahead for the segment. According to Digitimes’ research wing, global ultra-thin notebook shipments are expected to account for 4% of all notebook shipments in 2009. It anticipates that 6 million ultra-thin notebooks will be shipped this year. It blamed their high prices for their low desirability with respect to netbooks. “In terms of the price/performance ratio, the ultra-thin notebooks' components carry higher prices than most of the standard parts, but their working performance is only slightly better than netbooks,” said Joanne Chien, senior analyst at Digitimes.
AMD has posted its second-quarter results. Though AMD merely extended its losing streak by posting another quarterly loss, this fresh loss of $330 million is a touch less depressing compared to the $1.2 billion loss it posted for the same quarter last year. The company’s revenue in the second quarter stood at $1.18 billion. The chip maker is hopeful of a better showing in Q3 2009. This optimism is also shared by market analysts as they expect the PC market to show a strong upward trend in the next half.
Even Gartner’s numbers confirmed that the PC market didn’t decline as sharply as was expected. Gartner had feared a very steep decline of 9.8%, but its crystal ball eventually turned out to be way off the mark. According to Gartner, PC shipments declined by 5%.
IDC expects the PC market to put its horror run behind by the end of 2009. "New product launches in the second half of the year combined with seasonal growth and greater economic confidence resulting from factors such as government stimulus, a more liquid housing market, relatively stable stock market and interest rates, and progress in the auto and financial industries, should support the expected return to growth by year-end,” said Loren Loverde, the program director for IDC's PC tracking unit.
Like The Little Engine That Could, the worldwide PC market kept chugging onward against all economic odds, pushed in large part by an emerging netbook market that seemingly popped up overnight. But the ultraportable PCs could only do so much to stave off the inevitable, and according to market research firm iSuppli, the global PC market will suffer its first decline in 2009 since the Dot-Com bust of 2001.
"An annual decline in unit shipments is highly unusual in the PC market," observed Matthew Wilkins, principal analyst, compute platforms for iSuppli. "Even in weak years, PC unit shipments typically rise by single-digit percentages. The last decline -- in 2001 -- was a 5.1 decrease in unit shipments due to the extraordinary impact of the Dot-Com bust, which caused inflated IT spending levels from the previous years to collapse."
The market research firm predicts global PC shipments to dip to 287.3 million units in 2009, marking a 4 percent drop from the 299.2 million shipments in 2008. Ironically enough, a growing notebook market -- which we assume also includes netbooks -- might be part of the reason for the overall drop in PC shipments. While notebook PC shipments will rise by 11.7 percent, desktop PC shipments, including entry-level servers, is expected to plummet 18.1 percent and is being cited as the "primary factor driving the decline of the PC market in 2009," according to iSupply.