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TrendForce: Branded Manufacturers Get Defensive, Decline in Worldwide PC Shipments Expected to Ease in 2014

20 January 2014 Consumer Electronics Avril Wu

Following the end of CES 2014, products such as wearable computers and 4K TVs, rather than PCs and Notebooks, have become the main focuses among industry watchers. The PC shipments have been unable to recover since it showed a near 0% growth in 2011, and suffered an estimated 10% decline in 2013 even after Microsoft's new operating system and Intel's latest chip platforms had been introduced. Avril Wu, TrendForce's assistant vice president, predicts that the 2014 PC shipments will drop by approximately 3.2% QoQ to 2.83 billion units, but notes that the numbers could improve following the increased hardware model transitions in the business market and the emergence of “hybrid” Notebooks within the industry.

Judging by recent shipment numbers, the popularity of highly portable computing devices and cloud-based applications appear to be increasing at a notable rate. Smartphones, tablets, and server products have been showing consecutive shipment growth over the past few of years, for example, while various noteworthy companies are demonstrating the benefits of being a hardware-software company rather than a straight forward hardware manufacturer. Whereas Apple has services like App Store and iTunes to rely on, companies such as Amazon are able to benefit significantly through its e-book contents and massive ecosystem. For the hardware manufacturers who are without any notable software advantage, innovation has become highly critical to survival, as can be seen in the efforts by various companies to transform their existing PC hardware into new kinds of products. Those that are unable to do this are generally able to only compete through price.

A “hybrid” Notebook, according to Wu, makes use of the 2-in-1 form factor, borrows design elements from Notebooks, and allows consumers to separate the monitor and keyboard to improve mobility. In the past, the Wintel alliance has led to the release of various interesting types of hardware combinations, including models that allow for the use of different operating systems (ie. Windows and Android). The popularity of these products, along with the manufacturers' general desire to incorporate low power designs, is perceived to be helpful in terms of stimulating market demand for components such as Mobile DRAM. Low-cost Notebook models, similar to the aforementioned products, are expected to grow in importance and eventually become a major pillar for the Notebook industry. In the periods ahead, Chromebooks will account for approximately 3% of the NB shipments, and its growth will be a key trend to look out for in the 2014 PC market.

Thanks to Microsoft's attempts to renew its operating systems (ie. from Windows XP to Win8) and the recent marketing efforts from HP and Dell, the business markets are likely to experience a hardware model transition period which may, in the long run, enable the PC industry to hold up against Smartphones and tablets. Assuming that their productivity-related functions and mobility aspects cannot be easily replaced, the shipments of PCs are projected to remain steady at around 3 billion units in 2014. PCs may not be able to attract as much hype and attention as innovative products, but they are still perceived to be necessary to the computing industry.

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