Fed up with losing money in a shrinking PC market, notebook OEMs are getting into servers and datacentre hardware.
According to Digitimes, Quanta and Compal have been hiring staff specifically to create hardware for servers used in cloud computing data centres and their component suppliers. Apparently thermal modules, power supplies and metal stamping, have also extended related production makes a mile of cash.
The role model for the move is Intel, which saw its datacentre business units grow by 10 percent while profits from the business also surpassed its PC business.
The trend also triggered upstream supply chains to start turning their focuses to the segment.
Taiwan-based thermal module maker Chaun-Choung has 40 percent of its revenues contributed by server-related products. CCI ships about eight million thermal modules for servers each year, and is supplying to clients including HP, Dell, and Quanta.
Japan-based thermal module maker Furukawa also recently entered the supply chain of Google and Microsoft to supply products for their datacenters. The company also started sending samples to Facebook and Amazon recently, looking to expand into their supply chains.
Quanta’s server team has 1,000 employees and is focusing mainly on the integration between software and hardware and wants to double the team’s personnel by Christmas. Compal’s server team has recruited about 300 employees in two years and is still expanding.
Major and minor vendors saw precipitous falls in shipments of notebooks in January.
That’s according to Digitimes Research, which said HP saw its shipments fall by 45 percent and Lenovo fall by 30 percent compared to the previous month.
It wasn’t just the big names that suffered – the original design manufacturers – including giant Compal – saw its shipments fall too.
However, Compal supplies machines to both HP and Lenovo, the market research firm said.
Microsoft has been forced by incursions from Chromebooks to slash its licensing rate – but these machines are not immune to a more general decline in notebooks.
The news may be bad for HP and Lenovo but could be good news for people looking for notebook bargains – most of the machines sitting in warehouses are aimed at home use.
It’s still not entirely clear how Microsoft will approach the thorny matter of Windows 10 when that’s launched in the third or fourth quarter of this year. It also hasn’t disclosed how many different varieties of Windows 10 it will offer at launch.
There is some sentiment that people are holding off buying notebooks until they have a clearer picture of what is going to emerge from Redmond.
Sales of notebooks during the fourth quarter of 2014 amounted to 46 million units.
That’s according to Digitimes Research, which said in a report that shipments were flat compared to the same quarter in 2013.
Of the notebooks shipped, Taiwanese original design manufacturers (ODMs) shipped 36.6 million, representing nearly 80 percent of the total marketplace.
ODMs make notebooks which are then rebranded by multinationals or sold as so called “white boxes”.
The chief ODMs were Quanta with 33 percent, Compal with 31.4 percent, Wistron with 15.8 percent, Inventec with 7.5 percent and Pegatron with 6.9 percent.
Digitimes Research said HP was the number one vendor in the quarter with 23 percent market share, Lenovo second, Dell third, Asustek fourth, Acer fifth, Apple sixth, Toshiba seventh, Samsung eighth and Fujitsu ninth.
Sales of notebooks in the third quarter of this year are only up by 2.6 percent compared to the same quarter last year, despite bullish talk by vendors like Microsoft and Intel.
Digitimes Research said shipments for the calendar third quarter amounted to 45.198 million units, with HP being the top dog worldwide.
HP had a market share of 21 percent, Lenovo 20.9 percent, Dell 12.5 percent, Acer 9.7 percent, Apple 8.5 percent, Asustek 8.3 percent and Toshiba 6.2 percent, the Taiwanese research unit estimated.
These of course are the brand names, but many of the notebooks are made by original design manufacturers (ODMs) based in Taiwan. These ODMs accounted for a significant 36,958 notebooks in the quarter.
The ODM battle is fought between Compal (34.5%), Wistron (15.7%), Inventec (6.7%) and Pegatron (5.7%).
Digitimes Research also breaks out the shipments in terms of screen sizes with 8.2 percent being sub 12 inch models, 13 percent 12 inch notebooks, 13 percent 13 inch units, 22.7 percent 14 inch units, 47.2 percent 15 inch notebooks and 6.1 percent 16 inches and above.
The market research unit does not, however, appear to have provided figures for touch and non touch screen machines.
It continues to be bleak news on the X86 notebook front, with several original design manufacturers (ODMs) showing sales decreases last January.
According to Digitimes, Compal shipped 2.8 million units in January, down 37.8 percent sequentally. Meanwhile, Quanta shipped 3.6 million notebooks, a fall of 10 percent.
Wistron, which has a broader reach in the PC market, saw 1.4 million notebook units go in January. Along with sales of desktops, handhelds,, monitors, servers and the rest, Wistron fel by 19.08 percent in the month, but a more severe drop of 26.28 percent year on year.
The only bright spark on the ODM notebook front was Pegatron, which showed a rise of 3.54 percent in the month, said Digitimes.
Flying in the face of received wisdom, Compal’s president Ray Chen is talking up notebook sales in 2014.
Compal is an original design manufacturer (ODM) – that is to say a company which makes notebooks for big brand names.
According to a report in Digitimes, Chen expects shipments to hit 40 million units next year.
But he is conservative about touchscreen notebooks, despite Microsoft’s best efforts, and thinks they’ll only account for 15 percent of shipments next year. Compal will ship 15 million tablets next year.
He told the Taiwanese wire that its customers have been placing additional orders in this final quarter and expects notebook business to increase as enterprises are forced into upgrading as Windows XP reaches the end of the road.
Quanta Computer could miss its tablet target due to weaker than expected sales of Google’s new Nexus 7 tablet. Quanta was hoping to ship 20 million tablets this year, but Digitimes reports it is already having trouble keeping up with the plan.
As a result, Quanta could revise its tablet shipment target for 2013 by as much as 40 percent, to just 12 to 13 million units. In addition to the Nexus 7, Quanta also has orders for Amazon Kindle tablets. Although Nexus and Kindle Fire tablets were originally conceived to target the low-end, but the market evolved. Today, $200 tablets aren’t really low end, as there are plenty of cheaper white-box products priced closer to $100.
On the other hand, people who are willing to pay a bit more tend to go for Apple’s iPad mini, which is pricier still. Rumour has it that Google will not tap Asustek for the next generation Nexus 7, which means Quanta could lose the Nexus deal altogether in mid-2014. In addition, Compal has already grabbed part of the Amazon contract.
Soft demand for notebook PCs and the relentless tablet juggernaut will continue to drag down shipments of Taiwanese ODMs in the current quarter and beyond, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The bank said the outlook for the second half of 2013 remains challenging.
Shipments are expected to grow at a rate of two to three percent, which is very bad news for Acer and Asus. According to analysts, both companies suffered a 40+ percent plunge in unit sales last quarter in the European market. BoA Merrill Lynch said Acer and Asus are suffering from the rise of cheap tablets. Ironically, Asus was one of the pioneers in the Android tablet space and it produces Google’s 7-inch Nexus tablets, but it appears that more and more people are simply turning to even cheaper, white-box tablets.
Analyst Robert Cheng wrote in a note that Acer is likely to see losses over the next four quarter. He did not have many kind words for Asus, either.
“Asustek looks relatively fine, but notebook guidance is quite weak,” he said. Cheng added that Asustek’s “product mix” will become worse in the second half of the year.
As for contract manufacturers, Compal and Wistron should stay flat in the third quarter, while Quanta and Inventec still expect growth. Pegatron will get the worst of it. It is expected to lose some share and client orders, hence its notebook shipments will drop by 5 to 10 percent this quarter.
Contract manufacturers of notebooks had one of their worst quarters on record in Q1. According to IHS, they suffered a worse than expected quarter, with shipments to Apple and HP tumbling to the lowest level in three years.
Global shipments from ODMs in the first quarter totalled 33.2 million units, down 17 percent from 40.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2012.
The downturn was four to five percentage points than what IHS had originally forecast, prompting more concerns about the beleaguered industry. Taiwan based ODMs build notebooks for Apple, HP, Dell, Samsung, Lenovo, Acer, Asus and Toshiba.
The knock on effect hit ODMs hard. Quanta got the worst of it, with a 27 percent plunge in shipments. It lost its spot as the world’s top ODM to Compal as a result. Furthermore, Quanta apparently received “conservative” orders from Acer, Asus, HP and Apple during the quarter. Compal saw a quarterly decline of 5 to 7 percent and it weathered the storm a bit better than other ODMs, thanks to stable shipments to Dell and Lenovo.
Wistron’s drop in shipments was 16 percent, but it still managed to rank third. Inventec saw a 9-percent drop and it ended in fourth spot, while Pegatron wasn’t as lucky. It saw its shipments plummet 21 percent, finishing the quarter in fifth spot.
There’s light at the end of the tunnel, though. ODM shipments are expected to improve in the second half of the year. The key drivers of growth will be cheap ultrathin PCs with touchscreens, along with new models based on Intel Haswell parts. In addition, Microsoft will lower the licencee fee for Windows for notebooks with a screen size of up to 11.6 inches, as we reported from Computex a few weeks back. Better late than never.