Tag: PC market

Via to return to X86 CPU business

Shanghai skyline - WikimediaAfter keeping a low profile over the last few years, it appears that Taiwanese firm Via is planning to re-enter the mainstream PC market in the next year.

According to an interview in Taiwanese wire Digitimes, the company has a joint venture with the government of Shanghai and is deploying X86 based microprocessors along with graphics chips.

Company rep Timothy Chen told the wire that the company will return to the PC market in the second half of next year.  Via has a licence from Intel to design and produce X86 CPUs that lasts until 2018.

Its revenue streams right now include payments from chip dynamo Mediatek, USB 3.0 chips, and digital signage. It is also expected to make money from its GenieNetworks CDMA licensing business.

Despite those revenues, said Digitimes, Via turned in net losses in the third quarter.  Chen said that there were delays to embedded system business and a number of one off engineering expenses.

AMD Cuts Workforce – Sea Change 101 for Sailors?…,

AMD LayoffsJust one week and a day after assuming her new roll as AMD’s CEO Dr. Lisa Su announced a reduction in force amounting to seven percent of the AMD’s current workforce of 10,149 employees.

The fallowing of ~700 people follows two rounds of layoffs under Rory Read’s three year tenure.

AMD did not provide any information about where the cuts would be made – the company recently split into two divisions “Computing and Graphics”, and “Enterprise, Embedded and Semi-Custom”. Contacts indicate that “Computing and Graphics” will receive a majority of the “hits”.

Last Thursday’s warning by Microchip Chief Executive Steve Sanghi that a correction will spread more broadly across the industry in the near future sent shares of chipmakers lower last Friday.

Microchip is a broad spectrum supplier into the Chinese and Asian marketplace, booking revenue only after it is shipped by distributors – a closely coupled supply chain that quickly indicates impending sea changes. AMD shares a similar situation in China, the company’s biggest market, substantiating Microchip’s warning. Whether this is the beginning of a prolonged downturn or is merely another “noise blip” on the radar is entwined in controversy.

Strangely enough, AMD’s arch nemesis Intel, reported rather glowing results on Tuesday indicating that AMD might be suffering from Intel’s competitive resurgence in Asia. The fact that Intel is devoting resources to system level integration at the SoC level may now be having an effect on both competitors.

AMD’s experienced a 65% drop in quarterly profits and is expecting the current quarter to be 13% lower than the period ended in September. The company’s share price fell 6% to $2.49 in after-hours trading. The share price has dropped 43% in three months as of close Thursday.

Su went on to assure analysts that the company was moving toward customized chips for applications beyond videogames hinting at two customers that had the potential of bringing in $3 Billion in additional revenue over the next three years.

TechEye Take

The first time I saw Rory Read perform in front of analysts was somewhat of an embarrassment. He became so animated on stage that an additional two flaps of his arms per minute would have gotten him airborne (I heard that he fired his stage coach soon thereafter). His resignation came as no surprise, only late by three years. Lisa Su was the only stand-up with credibility and has remained so since.

Can we expect Dr. Su to right the AMD ship? She’s very smart and well experienced in the land of semiconductors and if anyone can accomplish the miracle required to make AMD a player she’d be my pick…,

Microsoft is damaged – report

Windows 8.1 is unlikely to save Microsoft’s bacon and slowness in delivering an adequate OS has damaged its reputation, a report suggests.

According to Taiwanese wire Digitimes, unnamed sources in the supply chain are suggesting that there will be little or no improvement in the PC market not only this year, but into next year too.

It isn’t all Microsoft’s fault, however.  Sales of PCs are in decline because people are using tablets and smartphones more.

Even though the unnamed sources think that things are looking gloomy, nevertheless a number of vendors including HP, Lenovo, Acer and Asustek are introducing devices tailored to Windows 8.1, says Digitimes, here.

Lenovo aims to topple HP by 2015

lenovo-logoLenovo has been going from strength to strength in recent months and now it has Hewlett Packard in its crosshairs. Lenovo believes there’s plenty of room for expansion in EMEA, in spite of Europe’s economic woes and Syria’s feeble attempts to become the Archduke Ferdinand of World War III.

Speaking at IFA 2013, Lenovo’s EMEA president Gianfranco Lanci said the company’s ultimate goal is to become number one in the region within the next 18 months. He added that there are still big growth opportunities on PCs and there’s still room to grow.

Meanwhile, HP is losing market share to Lenovo, while Lenovo has already overtaken Acer in EMEA. Lenovo’s PC business is doing surprisingly well at a time when many other PC vendors are faltering on all levels. In addition, Lenovo’s smartphone push is paying off nicely in Asia and next year it could bring its Android terracotta army to Europe and North America. Lenovo is also becoming a big name in Android tablets, but so far Android tablets have failed to match the success of their smartphone siblings.

“The investment needed in the smartphone and tablet businesses is much more than what you need in PCs – this is why we will see more consolidation,” Lanci said.

He argued that scale is necessary to successfully compete in the smartphone market and with skyrocketing phone shipments in China, Lenovo shouldn’t have much trouble with scale.

Lanci added that all three Lenovo divisions are making money, but the PC division is still generating higher margins as PCs don’t require nearly as much investment as smartphones and tablets. It may be interesting to note that Lenovo is making some rather interesting moves on the hybrid front as well. As hybrids and tablets converge, Lenovo will end up in a much better position than some competitors without a viable tablet/hybrid strategy. Provided all goes well, of course.

PC market to go from bad to worse

pc-sales-slumpAs if there was not enough bad news on the PC front, IDC has updated its forecast for 2013 and it now estimates PC shipments will fall 9.7 percent this year. Back in May IDC said PC sales would drop 7.8 percent, but in the meantime things have gotten a lot worse it seems. PC shipments dropped 4 percent in 2012, so the cumulative decline will be even worse.

So what happened over the last three or so months that made IDC slash another two percent from its forecast?

It wasn’t the poor showing of Haswell notebooks, or the complete absence of hybrids and other half baked attempts to salvage the market. It was China, along with other emerging markets. IDC says consumer interest remains “stubbornly depressed” but the main reason is still soft demand in emerging markets. Not that long ago, analysts were expecting emerging markets to save PC’s bacon, but now it seems they were wrong. IDC now expects a double-digit decrease in China and many other markets in the region will follow suit. India on the other hand is doing just fine, but India alone isn’t enough to reverse the trend.

Meanwhile channel sources are reporting stagnant inventory and plenty of demand for tablets and smartphones. As a result, leading emerging markets are expected to stay in the red next year. The market as a whole is expected to decline through 2014, but eventually it will recover in 2015 and see some modest growth. IDC says the industry will never return to peak volumes seen in 2011. Worldwide PC sales in 2012 totalled 349 million and they’ll be down to 315 million this year and they’ll “recover” to 319.8 million in 2017, which sounds encouraging until you factor in population growth.

“The days where one can assume tablet disruptions are purely a First World problem are over,” said Jay Chou, Senior Research Analyst, Worldwide Quarterly PC Trackers at IDC. “Advances in PC hardware, such as improvements in the power efficiency of x86 processors remain encouraging, and Windows 8.1 is also expected to address a number of well-documented concerns. However, the current PC usage experience falls short of meeting changing usage patterns that are spreading through all regions, especially as tablet price and performance become ever more attractive.”

Worse, the post-2014 recovery will be slow and it will be driven in part by the need to refresh existing systems, which already have much longer lifecycles than a few years ago. Things will start to pick up as businesses start upgrading their old XP boxes, while entry level ultraslims and cheap convertibles are expected to do well on the more consumerish side of things.

While this sounds encouraging, it should be noted that all three categories tipped for success aren’t big money makers. Businesses upgrading ancient XP machines won’t go for anything expensive, entry level hybrids and ultraslims will be very cheap as well, which is not good news for ASPs. What’s more, hybrids and ultraslims have to compete with even cheaper tablets to some extent, so tight margins will be the norm. Needless to say, vendors aren’t exactly thrilled by the prospect of having to build, market and service tons of cheap hybrids only to make peanuts at the end of the day.

SMBs still love PCs

dell-aioSales of tablets are skyrocketing and many punters claim they are cannibalising PC sales, which is true to some extent. Tablets are excellent gadgets for media stuff, but in many settings they simply can’t replace the traditional PC.

According to research firm Techaisle, SMBs are still buying plenty of PCs and tablets can’t tap this market. So the firm believes rumours of PC’s death are greatly exaggerated.

“Those who predict that the PC is dead are not seeing the picture correctly,” Techaisle analyst Anurag Agrawal told Information Week. “They are probably getting carried away by the current wave of tablet adoption.”

Agrawal does not dispute the fact that some people are buying tablets instead of PCs, but this is not a one-for-one replacement. Small and medium size businesses simply can’t replace PCs with tablets.

Techaisle found that 68 percent of American SMBs bought tablets to fill new or complementary functions. Only 16 percent of them bought tablets to replace traditional laptops.

Most tablets in SMBs are used as complementary devices and 70 percent of British SMBs say tablets won’t replace their PCs.

Tablets can be a valuable asset for SMBs, especially in some industries, but PCs will continue to dominate the SMB IT landscape. Tablets are more likely to replace credit card readers and POS systems than PCs.

The real problem for PC vendors is that SMBs and just about everyone else don’t really have much of an incentive to upgrade. PCs last a lot longer than they used to just a few years ago, so many companies buy new PCs only when they have to, that is, when they die.

“There are no compelling reasons based on technology advancements alone for a business to buy a new PC or replace an older one,” Agrawal said. “However, businesses are still buying PCs as per their needs.”

Maturity appears to be killing the PC market, not tablets.

IDC expects further IT spending slowdown

pc-sales-slumpIDC has taken a second look into its crystal ball and revised its earlier forecast for worldwide IT spending. Of course, the new numbers are lower.

In May IDC forecast 4.9 percent growth, but now it expects 4.6 percent. What’s more, if tablets and smartphones are taken out of the equation, spending will be up just 1.7 percent. IDC’s May forecast was 2.6 percent.

IDC cites a slowdown in economic growth in emerging markets as the main reason behind its decision to lower forecasts. Growth is slowing down in China and Asia Pacific. Europe is not even worth mentioning. However, it’s not all bad news. IT spending in the US is now expected to increase 4.6 percent this year, up from 4.2 percent forecasted in May.

There’s some good news for mobile outfits, too. IDC expects spending on tablets to be up 39 percent this year, up from a May forecast of 32.5 percent. Smartphone projections are also up, 18.5 percent over 17.2 percent in May.

Unsurprisingly there is nothing good to report on the PC front. PC sales worldwide are now expected to decline 7.2 percent this year. The May forecast was just 2.6 percent in the red. That’s a huge revision in the space of less than three months and the PC market is clearly in worse shape than analysts thought.

European PC market falls 20 percent in Q2

pc-sales-slumpThe European PC market may be about to bottom out, but before it does several vendors will take massive hits,  research from Gartner reveals. PC shipments in Western Europe totalled just 10.9 million units last quarter, down 19.8 percent year-on-year.

Gartner concluded that the death of netbook PCs, inventory woes caused by the transition to Haswell and Windows 8.1 all played a role in the decline. Acer and Asus were particularly hard hit. Acer’s sales were down 44.7 percent, while Asus took a 41.7 percent plunge. Acer sold just 1.3 million boxes in Q2, down from 2.36 million in the same quarter last year. It faired a bit better in Britain, with a 21.4 percent drop. Asus managed 850,000 units, down from 1.45 million last year.

HP still leads the way with 2.28 million units and a 20.8 percent market share. Unlike Acer and Asus, it managed to maintain its market share, but overall shipments were down 17.4 percent compared to a year ago. Lenovo was the only big vendor to end the quarter on a positive note. It shipped 1.26 million units, up from 1.185 million last year. That was enough to boost its market share from 7.8 to 11.5 percent.

Dell also did relatively well. Although its shipments were down 1.1 percent to 1.17 million units, Dell upped its market share from 8.7 percent to 10.7 percent.

gartner-UKPC-2Q13

Although all segments of the PC market declined, notebook sales saw a 23.9 percent drop, while desktop sales declined 12.2 percent. The consumer market saw a 25.8 percent dip, while sales of professional rigs were down 13.5 percent.

Gartner concluded that the UK mobile PC market lost 25 percent of its volume since 2010. PC shipments in Blighty totalled 2.2 percent units in Q1, down 13 percent from Q1 2012.

“The second quarter marked the 11th consecutive quarter of decline in the U.K.,” said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner. “During this time the notebook market has shrunk nearly 25 percent in unit volume. The U.K. notebook market totaled over 2 million units in the second quarter of 2010 and has now reached just under 1.5 million units.”

Atwal said PC vendors are now at a “make or break point” in the industry, as the product move to new hardware and Windows 8.1 could turn things around. He also pointed out that the professional market did a lot better than the consumer market.

However, it looks like things will get worse before they get better.

College kids like tablets, but still buy PCs

dorm-room-pcTablet sales are going through the roof, but some consumers still prefer the flexibility of a proper PC. According to a Deloitte survey, laptops are still huge on college campuses, which makes sense as it’s easier to copy papers and download illegal torrents on PCs.

The survey found that 82 percent of college students own PCs and 80 percent have smartphones. However, although tablets are popular among every age group, just 18 percent of college students in the US have one. Deloitte concluded that the combination of smartphones and laptops simply makes tablets redundant in a campus setting, reports Marketwatch.

There are a couple of factors contributing to the popularity of traditional PCs among students. First of all they are still unbeatable when it comes to productivity. While tablets may be more practical for reading and researching, nobody is going to write a paper on a tablet. In addition, PCs are incredibly cheap right now, so a low-end PC often costs less than an iPad mini. We also think gaming and storage have something to do with it. When they’re not writing papers, students can use their boxes to play or enjoy some movies or TV shows.

In addition, many PC vendors are offering tempting deals designed specifically for cash strapped students. Dell University, HP Academy and Apple’s Educational Pricing programmes offer big discounts in the US, although the same doesn’t apply to most European markets.

The only trouble is that students don’t like to spend much, so they usually go for the cheapest possible box. They aren’t very likely to choose fancy all-in-ones or small form factor PCs, but there are also quite a few gamers in the mix and they have no choice but to go after high-end PCs or pricey upgrade components.

EMEA PC sales slump by 22 percent

pc-sales-slumpPC shipments in Europe are down again. New figures fresh out of the International Data Corporation (IDC) show that second-quarter PC shipments in the EMEA region were down 22.2 percent compared to the same quarter last year. 

EMEA PC shipments last quarter reached 19.6 million units and portable PCs got the worst of it, with a 26-percent drop and shipments of 12.4 million units. Desktops fared a bit better, with shipments of 7.2 million units, down 14.6 percent. 

In Western Europe shipments declined by 21.2% year-on-year. Britain did rather well, all things considered, as it was down just 14%. Germany slowed down 18.7%, while France remained the softest with a 20.9% drop. 

However, let’s not forget about Southern Europe – PC shipments in Spain dropped 43.7 percent and with no end to Spain’s economic woes in sight, the trend is likely to continue. Central Europe was down 27 percent, while the Middle East and Africa slumped 18 percent. Although Middle Eastern economies and Turkey are doing rather well, political instability and economic uncertainty are taking their toll. 

“The evolution of form factors and the change in perception of mobile computing to ‘always on and always connected’ devices, development of social networks and Internet infrastructure, are all changing consumer behaviour impacting the way PCs are utilized,” said Maciej Gornicki, senior research analyst, IDC EMEA Personal Computing. “While Windows-based hybrid devices, convertible or ultraslim notebooks with touch capabilities generate a clear interest, sales remain weak.”

Gornicki noted that one of the main inhibitors to growth in new form factors remains price, but IDC expects prices to tumble in time for the holiday season and sales of ultraslim notebooks should pick up in the fourth quarter and beyond. 

It is also worth noting that notebook sales figures include mini notebooks, or netbooks, which are dying out. Meanwhile desktop sales don’t appear to be slowing down at the same rate as portable PC sales, as they can’t be cannibalized by tablets. Besides, desktops are a staple for small businesses and corporate users who can’t always hold off purchases like consumers.

Although the decline was significant, some vendors still managed to stay in the black. Lenovo’s shipments grew 19 percent year-on-year, making it the only big brand to see any growth. Lenovo ranked second, with 2.62 million PCs shipped. HP is still the EMEA market leader with shipments of 3.72 million units, but unlike Lenovo its shipments were down 23.2 percent compared to a year ago. As a result there was no big change in HP’s market share, which currently stands at 19 percent, down from 19.2 percent. However, Lenovo’s share increased from 8.7 percent in Q2 2012 to 13.4 percent last quarter. 

Acer ranked third with 2.26 million units, but it also suffered a massive 42.2 percent drop in shipments and saw its market share tumble from 15.5 percent to 11.5 percent. Dell’s shipments dropped 9 percent, but it actually managed to grow its market share to 10.7 percent, up from 9.1 last year. Asus also suffered a slump, with 1.69 million shipped boxes, down 38.5 percent.

Big G sees more gloom for PC churners

pc-sales-slumpThe PC slump is set to continue, while tablet sales will remain strong well into the future, according to fresh data from Gartner.

Sales of traditional PCs are expected to hit just 305 million units this year, down 10.6 percent from last year. Things might be a bit better in 2014, but Gartner is still forecasting a 5 percent decline.

Even if non-traditional form factors, such as Chromebooks, hybrids and skinny clamshells are added to the PC figures, we’re still looking at a 7.3 percent decline this year.

Meanwhile tablets are still going strong. Tablet shipments are expected to reach 202 million units this year, up from 120 million in 2012. In 2014 tablet shipments should hit 276 million units. Mobiles are growing as well, but not at the same insane pace. Smartphone shipments are expected to grow by about 4.3 percent, with a volume of more than 1.8 billion units in 2012.

As far as non-traditional ultramobiles go, Gartner believes shipments will double this year, hitting 20 million units. Next year they should double again, to 40 million units, but even that won’t be enough to offset the slump across the rest of the PC market.

Demand for tablets and ultramobiles could be propped up by BYOD. Gartner believes that 72 percent of personal computing devices will used in the workplace by 2017 thanks to the new trend, which is already causing plenty of headaches in IT departments across the globe.

However, tablets might be about to run out of steam, as they are maturing fast and demand for high-end gear is evaporating.

“The increased availability of lower priced basic tablets, plus the value add shifting to software rather than hardware will result in the lifetimes of premium tablets extending as they remain active in the household for longer. We will also see consumer preferences split between basic tablets and ultramobile devices,” said Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal.

Interestingly, the combined share of Apple OS devices might overtake Microsoft’s OS share by 2015. Around 296 million Apple devices will ship this year compared to 339 million Windows devices. However, Android will outpace Apple and Microsoft combined, with shipments hitting 866 million units this year and passing the one billion mark next year.

Windows 8 gear set to get cheaper

pc-sales-slumpThe PC market is in the middle of its worst slump ever, but there might be some light at the end of the tunnel. PC makers believe prices of Windows 8 devices will fall dramatically in the not so distant future. 

On Wednesday Acer President Jim Wong said Microsoft is becoming increasingly considerate to its hardware partners and that it is finally starting to listen to their suggestions and ideas. Shifting the focus to cheaper products seems to have been the loudest suggestion. Wong also pointed out that touch enabled devices will open up a lot of possibilities for PCs, but he also warned that many simply don’t need touchscreens on their trusty PCs.

On the other hand, more touchscreens and mouth-watering price points could spell more competition in the cutthroat tablet market, dominated by Apple and Android gear. A number of manufacturers are already working on smaller Windows 8 tablets as well. The success of the iPad mini and even cheaper 7-inch ARMdroids did not go unnoticed, but it will take some effort to make Windows 8 truly competitive in this market, which is already becoming overcrowded.

First of all, Windows 8 is a bloated operating system by tablet standards. This means Windows 8 tablet designs need a lot more storage than their iOS or Android counterparts, which tends to drive the price a bit higher. Windows 8.1, or Windows Blue, could try to tackle this shortcoming. Secondly, they need very efficient x86 chips to be economically feasible, but upcoming x86 SoC designs from Intel and AMD should go a long way towards addressing this issue. Finally, Redmond has to cut Windows 8 prices, plain and simple.

However, Asus CEO Jerry Shen warns that there is no quick fix for Microsoft’s tablet woes. Windows 8 tablets are quite a bit pricier than their Android counterparts and they cost at least $150 more. Shen believes the price gap could narrow to about $50 this year, which should considerably improve Microsoft’s competitiveness.

Acer Chairman J.T. Wang said Microsoft’s willingness to adapt to change is a good sign for the PC industry, reports the Wall Street Journal.  He was rather blunt about it, too.

“In the past we consider they (Microsoft) live in heaven,” he said. “But now they go down to earth and they start to learn how people living on earth think.”

Although tablets are generating all the buzz lately, there are some changes on the PC front as well. An increasing number of all-in-ones and more powerful mini-PCs are hitting the market. Ultrabooks sales are still failing to impress, but there is some good news to report on the notebook front as well. Prices of Ivy Bridge notebooks are seeing double-digit cuts, as Intel partners gear up to introduce Haswell-based models over the next few months.