While the server market is in the doledrums, white box servers are doing really well, according to beancounters at IDC.
The white box server market is growing and the IDC numbers from IDC merely serve to reinforce the point, with the revelation that the ODM Direct group of vendors grew revenue by 41.8 percent in the first quarter to $1.2 billion, accounting for 10.4 percent of the market, at a time when overall server revenues declined by 4.6 percent.
Gartner research director Adrian O’Connell found something similar – while there was a global decline of 4.5 percent in server revenues in the same period, revenues in the “others” category rose 4.4 percent. He wrote that leading server vendors are doing all they can to ensure that service providers don’t continue to shift their server purchases toward ODM suppliers.
“Combined with the significant inroads made by China-based suppliers, we expect to see continuing challenges and downward price pressure across the EMEA server market for some time to come,” he said.
HPE struck a deal with Foxconn to sell white box-like servers to cloud and telco providers three years ago. But CEO Meg Whitman recently admitted that server sales had been affected by declining orders from a single customer – probably Microsoft.
Supermicro is one of the key white box venders. In February, it was believed that Chipzilla was the unnamed customer in a deal for more than 30,000 Supermicro servers for a data centre in Silicon Valley.
Now that even grocers are targeting the 7-inch tablet segment, the dog eat dog of cheap tablets is getting even more brutal. Chinese white-box players are further cutting their prices, according to channel sources cited by Digitimes.
A quick glance at tablet prices in the UK and the continent reveals that there are already heaps of tablets priced at £99 or less, with some truly cheap models going for as little as £49.
What’s more, some big vendors like Asus, Acer and Lenovo also have products at or close to the £99 mark and let’s not forget Tesco’s impressive Hudl, which is priced at £119 yet it features a much better screen than similarly priced tablets.
Google and Amazon had a thing or two to do with this trend. The Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 series of tablets reinvented the £199 space last year, so quite a few companies introduced similar products and similar price points. As a result, the white-box crowd has no choice but to run for the hills, or in this case for the bargain bin.
This doesn’t appear to bode well for big brands. It was recently reported that Google was forced to slash orders for the second generation Nexus 7 due to soft demand. People who want cheap tablets seem to be going after even cheaper models and the £/$199 price point is now practically reserved for high-end 7-inch tablets.
In addition, the market share of small white-box outfits is going up, from 26 percent in Q2 2012 to 39 percent in Q2 2013. The top five brands are losing share, but if the prices of entry level Asus, Acer and Lenovo tablets are anything to go by – they are not far behind in the race to the bottom.
Foxconn may be about to diversify and try its luck in the smartphone and tablet business, under its own brand. The company has been building iPhones, iPads and a range of other products for years and now it’s selling smart TVs, with a bit of help from 7-Eleven Taiwan.
Foxconn launched its TV assembly business in 2008 and it has expanded it in recent years with the acquisition of manufacturing facilities from Sony. It also bought a 50 percent stake in Sharp’s panel making plant in Japan, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Shoppers in Taiwan can already buy a range of Foxconn tellies and with gaudy ads like this one for a 40-inch smart TV, who could resist? However, the big news is that Foxconn may be about to launch smartphones and tablets of its own, or through some sort of deal with 7-Eleven.
This is not good news for Chinese white-box outfits. They have been performing quite well recently and demand for white-box smartphones and tablets is quite strong, often outstripping growth reported by big brands. If Foxconn enters the fray, the white-box crowd will face a lot more competition.
Foxconn has a lot of experience and capacity second to none, but it doesn’t actually make any crucial components used in smartphone or tablets. This is true of most smartphone outfits except Samsung.
There is no shortage of high resolution panels, cheap application processors, cameras or batteries. Depending on volume Foxconn could get much better prices than small white-box companies. However, it is still unclear whether Foxconn’s push will be limited to the 7 Eleven deal, or whether it will spread to other markets.
The company certainly has the muscle to pull off a global rollout, but this might not be necessary, at least not for now. Foxconn could instead choose to target a handful of emerging markets like China, markets that are not very saturated and that tend to scoop up white-box phones. The exact same markets Lenovo is gunning for. Such an approach could give Foxconn a foothold in the mobile industry through a back door, as it wouldn’t have to go head to head with Samsung or Apple.
IHS has increased its forecast for tablet displays by six percent for 2013.
The numbers were boosted by orders from Chinese white-box tablet makers who seem to be growing at a much faster pace than big brands. A total of 262 million displays for tablets should be shipped this year, up from a previous forecast of 246 million units. Looking back at 2012, this represents 69 percent growth.