Thu, Jan 08, 2009 - Page 12 News List

Analysts forecast more consolidation in notebook sector

By Elizabeth Tchii  /  STAFF REPORTER

Looking at the year ahead, market observers expected further consolidation in the notebook computer industry, with low-priced netbooks fueling intense competition among the key global players.

Lured by inexpensive netbook alternatives, shrewd consumers have been opting for Asustek Computer Inc (Asus, 華碩電腦), Acer Inc (宏碁) and Hewlett-Packard Co (HP) since last year, Vincent Chen (陳豊丰), an analyst at Yuanta Securities Investment Consulting (元大投顧), said in a phone interview yesterday.

SHRINKING SHARE

“We have witnessed significant market-share shrinkage from high-priced Japanese computer makers such as Sony, Fujitsu and Toshiba, as well as large corporate vendors such as Dell and Lenovo. This is a trend that will likely continue into 2009,” Chen said.

As companies brace for stiff rivalry among notebook makers, analysts project increased sales of netbooks this year.

Jane Tseng (曾筱軫), an analyst at Topology Research Institute (拓墣產業), shared Chen’s view on industry consolidation and said that total notebook sales volume would rise this year, but mostly driven by netbook growth, while regular notebook sales will slow or stagnate.

“It is a given that notebooks are replacing desktops as the primary personal computer choice as consumers opt for mobility,” Tseng said in a separate phone interview yesterday.

And with the dismal economic backdrop, most corporations are slashing expenses or curtailing equipment purchases altogether, leaving consumers as the dominant group of notebook buyers, Tseng said.

“And guess what? Consumers are price-conscious netbook buyers. This is great news for netbook makers,” she said.

Tseng projected a netbook shipment of 10 million units for Acer and 7 million units for Asus this year.

PRICE PROBLEMS

However, increased sales volume might not mean profitability for local players such as Asus and Acer, because average selling prices remain a challenge, Chen said.

“Prices of several components, such as panels, have been falling. Hence, there is increased space for prices to go down,” Tseng said. “Consumers can expect a greater range of netbook prices ahead, with the low-end price touching US$199.”

While local companies Asus and Acer have focused on building global brands, they have been outsourcing manufacturing to their benefit.

“With manufacturing out of the picture, they can focus on their core businesses, cut costs, improve efficiency and stay flexible as they navigate the rapidly changing business landscape,” Chen said.

As the public awaits last month’s financial reports from Asus and Acer, Chen expects no upside surprise, he said, because of disappointing sell-through figures.

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