Tag: 2-in-1

Intel promises more cheap tablets and hybrids. Again

Intel-logoIntel’s new CEO Brian Krzanich is at it again. He is promising $99 tablets, along with $299 Haswell laptops, $349 2-in-1 hybrids and $299 Bay Trail clamshells. The prices aren’t exactly new – Krzanich talked about $99 tablets back at IDF 2013.

In the meantime the first Bay Trail products have started to appear, although they are not widely available yet. Early benchmarks found that Bay Trail tablets were roughly on a par with the latest ARM SoCs from Nvidia and Qualcomm. The bad news is that Intel’s chips are manufactured using a superior process (22nm vs. 28nm) and that they cost a bit more than ARM chips. Intel’s official prices for Bay Trail-T SoCs are $32 to $37, while high-end ARM chips are estimated to cost $20 to $28.

With that in mind, it is obvious that Intel doesn’t stand to make much cash on $99 tablets, which don’t exactly have much room for Intel’s traditionally high margins. The price points for hybrids and laptops are more realistic, but demand for Windows hybrids has yet to materialise.

That is a bigger problem than actual hardware. Intel’s new x86 SoCs have what it takes both in terms of performance and efficiency, but they are going after a limited market that simply isn’t there, at least not yet. Aggressive pricing should help, but Krzanich stated that the price cuts should also involve OEMs and ODMs.

This will be a bitter pill to swallow for many of them, as they are already struggling to make ends meet in a slow PC market. They would effectively have to give up some of their margins to hit Intel’s price points and at the same time they could cannibalize their own product lines.

This is where the failure of Windows RT and the lacklustre market performance of Windows 8 tablets could back come to haunt Intel. While PC makers were waiting for competitive x86 parts to stick in their hybrids and tablets, most of them decided to roll out ARM-based products with Android, dropping RT in the process and limiting Redmond’s footprint on the tablet market. For example, Asus, Lenovo and HP are already selling Android hybrids. Lenovo even introduced its first Android IdeaPad laptop a few days ago and it should sell for less than 200 pounds.

The only thing Intel has going for it in this segment is x86 support, i.e. the ability to run Windows 8 and offer hybrids that can use the wide range of Windows productivity apps. However, vendors appear to be focusing on higher performance Haswell tablets for Windows 8, which can’t come close to the $299 mark for a variety of reasons.


Intel talks up hybrids, again

Intel-logoIf we didn’t know any better, we could be forgiven for saying that Intel is starting to lose the plot and panic over its less than impressive showing in mobile.

Just a few quarters ago the chipmaker was making next to no noise on tablets and smartphones, but with the appointment of new CEO Brian Krzanich, Intel changed its tune in a matter of weeks.

Its last earnings call was practically all about Atom. The company barely mentioned Haswell, which launched during the same quarter. Then came a lot of talk about hybrids, 2-in-1s, tablets and touch enabled Ultrabooks, which we like to call touchbooks around the office.

Speaking at a UBM Channel event in Washington earlier this week, Intel’s North American Channel Manager Todd Garrigues said the PC is “not dead yet” and went on to deliver some “good news” for solution providers selling desktops and notebooks. Quite predictably, the “good news” was all about 2-in-1s and hybrids. He then proceeded to show the crowd a couple of such devices, like the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix, reports CRN.

It appears that Intel execs can no longer leave the office without bringing a sample 2-in-1 hybrid with them for some sort of demo. Just a few days ago we had a chance to see Intel President Renee James showing off a Sony Vaio hybrid during an interview with the Wall Street Journal. In the interview James said Intel is now treating Atom and Core equally, which wasn’t the case in the past.

Garrigues also talked up hybrids, saying they combine the portability and ease of use of a tablet with the productivity of a traditional PC. That is the official line at least. We are not sure they do – hybrids will remain a lot pricier than tablets and unless they end up a lot bigger than tablets, they won’t be that great for productivity. It basically sounds like a carmaker promising to develop a new vehicle, part supermini, part pickup. Just because it can be made doesn’t mean it should, and it doesn’t mean it will bring the best of both worlds to the end user.

Garrigues used the opportunity to mention the XP phase-out. He said there are millions of antiquated PC running XP out there, so it’s time for an upgrade.

“Bottom line: There are 500 million PCs out there in the world that are four years or older,” Garrigues said. “So there’s a great opportunity.”

It might be a great opportunity, but it is also a figure that should keep Intel execs awake at night. There’s no better proof that the PC is mature than half a billion people working on ancient 4+ years old PCs and refusing to upgrade. No amount of swanky hybrids will change this.

PC and tablet shipments to hit 493m this year

pc-sales-slumpCombined worldwide shipments of tablets and PCs are expected to hit 493.1 million units, according to research from Canalys. The firm is expecting seven percent growth, but it will come from tablets rather than PCs.

Tablets are forecast to account for 37 percent of the market, up from 25 percent last year.

By 2017, unit shipments should reach 713.8 million, but only a quarter of them will be laptops, while tablets should make up 64 percent of all shipments.

The tablet market is booming. It more than doubled in the first quarter of the year, while at the same time desktop and laptop shipments took a double-digit plunge. Tablet shipments in 2013 should hit 182.5 million units and by the end of the year they should outpace laptops.

Competition should heat up over the next few quarters, with traditional PC vendors vying for a piece of the lucrative tablet market. Windows 8.1 tablets are expected to start making their mark later this year, but they might not have what it takes to stand up to Android and iOS gear in the low end. Therefore many outfits are turning to Android tablets, including Acer, Asus, Lenovo and HP. However, the trouble with cheap Android tablets is that they’re not good money makers.

“Shipment numbers can be high but absolute margins on these products are expected to be small. Low-price tablets will not be lucrative but it is necessary to compete or a vendor will simply lose relevance and scale. In fact, accessories, particularly cases, as well as the new generation of high-tech app-enabled accessories will likely provide higher margins than the products themselves,” said Pin-Chen Tang, research analyst at Canalys. “This new influx of Android devices will provide a boost to the platform and Canalys therefore expects Android to take a 45% share in 2013, behind Apple at 49%. The iPad mini is expected to continue selling well, becoming more significant in terms of the product mix and spawning a further increase in consumer demand for smaller tablets.’

The other big unknown is Intel’s 2-in-1 convertible push. They should also start appearing later this year and vendors have already shown off some designs, but many are not convinced that they will do well. The first generation isn’t very impressive. They require pricey and relatively hot x86 chips, so they end up a bit bulkier than ARM-based tablets. In addition, Windows 8.x is still an unproven OS in the tablet space and it’s more bloated than Android or iOS.

“These convertible products have disappointed so far. Convertibles are too heavy in tablet form and too expensive when compared with clamshell product,” said the company. Canalys therefore expects that, for at least the next 18 months, consumers will buy separate products, rather than compromise on a Windows 8 convertible or hybrid PC. Even for Android products, alternative form factors are not expected to grow rapidly due to the category being sandwiched between low-priced slates and more familiar Windows-based clamshell notebooks,” said Canalys analyst James Wang.

Intel wants $299 hybrid 2-in-1s

Intel-logoIntel said yesterday it will host a symposium in Taipei to discuss the development of 2-in-1 hybrids with supply chain partners. The event is part of Intel’s push for cheaper x86 devices, which could take on ARM-based tablets, at least in theory.

Intel knows that x86 tablets are simply too pricey to compete with ARM tablets, both on the hardware and software fronts. However, if it manages to push prices down, upcoming 2-in-1s could still be competitive.

Intel VP and general manager of global ecosystem development Zane Ball told reporters that he expects prices of 2-in-1s to fall next year, thanks to lower component costs. He said most companies are currently capable of delivering $399 devices, but the real challenge will be getting the price down to $299, reports Focus Taiwan.

It won’t be easy. At the moment there are just 15 products that fit Intel’s 2-in-1 spec and the number is expected to grow to 60 designs next year. These are hardly impressive figures and many analysts believe Intel will have a very tough time marketing the devices, especially if prices remain high.

However, although $299 is still not enough to combat cheap Android tablets, it is still an interesting price point. Cheap 2-in-1s could do well in some niche markets. They sound like the perfect upgrade for netbook users and they could steal some market share from Google’s ultra-cheap Chromebooks.

Higher end models could be a replacement for ultraportables and small Ultrabooks.

Sales of slim HDDs are soaring

seagate-hddEarlier this year Seagate and Western Digital introduced a range of 5-millimetre and 7-millimetre HDDs/SSHDs and it appears they will have no shortage of customers. According to IHS, sales of 5- and 7-millimetre drives will soar to 133 million units by 2017, up from just five million last year.

Ultra thin hard drives and hybrid drives are used in Ultrabooks and other thin devices, which are expected to slowly squeeze more traditional form factors out of the consumer market in coming years.

IHS reckons shipments of 9.5mm drives will drop to 79 million units by 2017, down from 245 million in 2012, reports Electronicsfeed.

However, it won’t all be smooth sailing for hard drive makers. Shipments of SSDs are still growing at a fast pace. SSD shipments are projected to climb some 90 percent this year, hitting 64.6 million units, whereas hard drives shipments are slowing down. They are expected to drop five percent to 545.8 million units. Ultra thin hard drives and hybrids will help in the short term, but SSDs will continue to find new markets as prices of NAND drop.

The big hope for hard drive makers is that they will manage to score more design wins with their new thin drives, as they are still a lot cheaper than SSDs. This is where they can expect some help from Microsoft, as Windows 8.x is a lot more bloated than iOS or Android, so there is a chance that cheap Windows hybrids and tablets will have to use mechanical drives, or hybrid drives.

“Both the thinner HDDs along with hybrid HDDs could even start finding acceptance in ultrathin PCs and tablet PCs—two products that now mostly use solid-state drives as their storage element. Hard disks have lost market share to SSDs, which offer better performance and can be more easily used to achieve a thinner and lighter form factor crucial to tablets and ultrathin PCs,” said Fang Zhang, storage systems analyst at IHS.

In the long run, however, hard drives have no place in tablets or hybrids, or 2-in-1s as Intel likes to call them these days. In any case they are a cheap and proven interim alternative, as they will enable vendors to come up with cheaper ultrathin devices before SSD prices come down to acceptable levels.