Wed, Nov 12, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Notebook industry to rise by 33%

GROWING FAST Recent improvements in functions have ensured that any notebook now compares favorably to desktop computers, boosting sales

By Bill Heaney  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwanese manufacturers are set to ship more than 24 million notebook computers this year, which is one third more than last year, analysts at the semi-official Market Intelligence Center (MIC) said yesterday.

The nation will see another 32-percent rise in shipments next year to over 32 million units, the research institute predicted.

Improvements

Improvements in technology that have made notebooks viable alternatives to bulky desktop computers are pushing sales, center analyst Chou Shih-hsiung (周士雄) said.

"This year one in four of all computers sold will be notebooks. We forecast by 2006 notebooks will cross the one in three threshold," Chou said.

Globally, 37.6 million notebooks will be sold this year, of which almost two thirds, or 24.3 million, will be produced by Taiwanese companies, according to the center's figures. Over 110 million desktop computers will be sold in the same period.

Last month, US-based researcher Gartner Inc reported strong worldwide computer shipments in the third quarter, due mostly to increased notebook sales. Only last week, Gartner upped its predictions for total computer sales this year to 164.3 million units -- well ahead of MIC's forecast -- an increase of almost 11 percent on last year. This is higher than Gartner's September prediction of 8 percent growth for this year, as sales this quarter are stronger than expected.

New technologies

Global leaders have been promoting new chip technologies this year and that has boosted the market, Chou said.

Earlier this year Intel Corp launched its Centrino package of mobile computer chips that reduce power consumption and allow notebooks to operate for longer at lower temperatures. Low operating temperatures are crucial in slim portable computers that cannot sacrifice space to bulky fans and cooling systems.

Centrino chips also come with wireless Internet access built in, a feature Intel says consumers who want to browse the Web in coffee shops, airports and other public spaces are demanding.

Increasing fast

Other researchers agree. Sales of notebook computers are growing faster than desktops because computing power is now comparable to desktop computers, graphics are better, browsing the Internet can be done wirelessly and batteries last longer due to improved technologies, US-based research firm DisplaySearch said in a recent report.

Taiwan's ability to produce quality computer equipment at lower costs than competitors in South Korea and Japan has secured it the position as the world's leading notebook manufacturer. But its cost-down expertise is also forcing more production overseas, especially to China.

Prices drop

"There has been a growth in shipments, but a drop in average selling price, so there has been no profit growth for Taiwanese manufacturers," Chou said. "Lower prices have increased the pressure to move manufacturing to China."

Notebooks that cost US$2,000 to US$2,500 three years ago are expected to fetch only US$1,500 next year.

A further problem is a shortage in the liquid-crystal panels necessary to make display screens for notebook computers.

Competition

Notebook computer manufacturers compete with flat-screen computer display and television makers, and this is slowly pushing up the price of LCD panels, DisplaySearch reported recently.

This is putting further pressure on already tight profit margins, Chou said.

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