Computers keep getting smaller and smaller.
There's the netbook a mini sub-notebook personal computer with an even smaller screen, keyboard and processor and its desktop version, the nettop. Intel Corp.'s Atom the firm's smallest processor yet was built specifically for such low-cost, low-power compact applications.
The desktop platform will struggle to compete against a [notebook] platform whose mobility and performance continue to increase, said Matthew Wilkin, iSuppli Corp.'s principal analyst for computer platforms research.
The El Segundo, Calif.-based market research and consulting firm projects global notebook shipments will grow 21 percent to total 196 million units in 2010, up from 162 million in 2009. Desktop shipments will fall 8 percent to 117 million units from 128 million, iSuppli projects.
The only things getting bigger are monitors, said Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates Inc. of Wayland, Mass. As the price [of monitors] comes down, that is one area of joy in the plastics business.
Also, lighter metal is replacing plastics in some computer housings Apple had a lot to do with that, Kay said.
Though potentially more expensive, metal competes on the look, feel and appearance of ruggedness, said Kay. In some of the thinnest products, the design involves a metal skin over an internal carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic frame.
For the monitor market, transitioning to the 16-to-9 aspect-ratio widescreens is the biggest news right now, said Tom Mainelli, senior research analyst with International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass. Initially, screens had 4-to-3 or 5-to-4 ratios and then 16-to-10 widescreens.
These transitions have been spurred by the manufacturing side, Mainelli said, because widescreens offer greater glass-cutting efficiencies. Many business buyers continue to prefer standard aspect-ratio displays, and as the panels used in these devices become more scarce, they're going to have to pay increasingly high premiums to get these monitors, Mainelli added.
But, he noted that U.S. shipments of monitors continue to decline as more consumers and businesses transition from desktop PCs to notebooks.
Global shipments of LCD monitors may be flat during 2010, but an erosion in the average selling price per unit could result in lower revenues, Mainelli said.
IDC projects a global drop in LCD monitors to 155.2 million units $30.2 billion in sales from last year's 155.5 million and $31.7 billion. It expects a U.S. decline to 27.6 million units and $5 billion in sales from 28.7 million units and sales of $5.6 billion.
The research group also projects a 4.2 percent gain in worldwide shipments of multifunctional peripherals and printers (MFPs) to 114.1 million units in 2010, from 109.4 in 2009, said Phuong Hang, an IDC program manager who tracks those numbers. Laser MFPs should lead the pack, with the laser segment generally outpacing inkjet devices.
IDC's Kay identified the bedrock desktop group as gamers, systems builders, and a consumer segment he calls the anti-mobility crowd those with an ongoing interest for desktops with minitower cases.
Specialty-market gamers want the biggest heat envelope [with] more power [and] more space to cool in, Kay said.
Those products include Voodoo-brand devices from Hewlett-Packard Development Co. LP, Alienware from Dell Inc., Mach V from Falcon Northwest Computer Systems, and the Raptor and Edge series from Velocity Micro Inc.
System builders in the desktop arena may buy memory modules and processors in fire sales and figure out how to put it together in a modular form, Kay said.
As for the anti-mobility crowd, they include around-the-clock operations where management wants its workstations nailed to the floor, without much chance of someone walking away with a unit, he said.
For the quarter ended Sept. 30, HP remained the No. 1 global computer maker in sales, but Acer Inc. of Taipei, Taiwan, beat out Dell as the second largest, according to iSuppli. Beijing-based Lenovo Group Ltd. and Toshiba Corp. of Tokyo retained fourth and fifth place.
Total unit shipments for the quarter vs. the same year-ago period showed: HP up 7 percent (to 10.9 million units), Acer up 16.6 percent (to 10.7 million units), Dell down 5.9 percent, Lenovo up 17.2 percent and Toshiba up 9.7 percent.
Copyright 2010 Crain Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.