Taiwanese notebook manufacturers participating in Computex are counting on Ultrabooks and Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system to stimulate another big wave of replacement demand in the second half of the year and through next year.
Acer Inc (宏碁) and Asustek Computer Inc (華碩), the nation’s largest PC vendors, each announced a number of Windows 8-based devices across the board, including all-in-one PCs, tablets and Ultrabooks, earlier this week at the annual Taipei computer trade show as they hope the touch functions will boost PC sales.
Acer chairman J.T. Wang (王振堂) said on Monday that Windows 8 would help boost global Ultrabook shipments, and forecast Acer’s sales would begin to improve in the third quarter and show a significant pick-up in the fourth quarter. He did not offer exact growth figures.
Asustek’s booth was jampacked with visitors yesterday at Computex, with the section of Windows 8-enabled Ultrabooks receiving a lot of attention.
A company saleswoman said visitors were curious about what these machines can do.
Gigabyte Technology Corp (技嘉), which is known for its motherboards and notebook computers, launched a 14-inch ultra-thin notebook at the end of last month and said it planned to launch new products, like tablets and notebooks equipped with touch screens, to match the launch of Windows 8 in the second half.
Gibabyte senior vice president Richard Ma (馬孟明) said those product launches would help the company grow its shipments by 50 percent annually in the second half, reversing stalled momentum in the first half because of a shortage of hard disk drives and a weak global economy.
Micro-Star International Co (MSI, 微星), a PC vendor and motherboard manufacturer, introduced its convertible Ultrabook Slider S20 this week at the show. The S20 doubles as a tablet and runs Windows 8.
“MSI is fine-tuning the machine, which is scheduled to hit the market in September or October,” said Luc Liao (廖錦清), marketing manager of MSI’s notebook division. “We think this kind of machine will be very competitive, because it’s the mainstream of the PC world, with the touch interface of Windows 8 Metro, cloud computing and apps all in place. We are optimistic about its sales in the second half of the year and beyond.”
Elitegroup Computer Systems Co (精英), a PC original-design manufacturer and motherboard manufacturer, has developed an Intel-approved Ultrabook, which is being optimized for running Windows 8, a company sales manager surnamed Chen said.
“End users are still getting familiar with the new operating system, but with the touch function and Ivy Bridge processor combination, we expect this machine to be a strong rival of Apple MacBook,” he said.
On desktop motherboards, both MSI and Asustek salespeople said they would have Windows 8-compatible motherboards ready for sale when Microsoft launches the operating system, and they all thought it would stimulate replacement demand for PC later this year.
While companies have generally put high hopes on Ultrabooks with touch-enabled Windows 8 and are very optimistic about the outlook of their shipments, analysts said PC vendors still need time to lower costs for the new products before they could become popular.
“The cost of touch modules is the most critical challenge,” Eric Chiou (邱宇彬), WitsView’s research director, said in a report this week.
To avoid affecting the thinness and portable nature of notebooks, touch-module suppliers have mostly adopted the one-glass solution, which integrates a touch sensor with a cover glass to make the product thinner, he said.
Even though the solution is not a completely new technology, its production yield rate, quality and stability on notebook products have yet to mature, which inevitably results in higher costs, Chiou said in the report.
In addition to higher costs and pricing issues, practicality has a direct affect on consumers’ decision to purchase, the report said.
“Only with application software that matches the usage of touch functions can touch notebooks be upgraded to ‘highly usable’ products or further to ‘desirable’ products,” Chiou said.
On Thursday, JPMorgan also painted a bleak picture for PC sales in the second and third quarters, citing slowdown caused by the transition period to Windows 8 and weaker demand in China. It said it expected sales to improve in the fourth quarter and next year.
Overall, JPMorgan said global PC shipments are expected to grow 2 percent to 381.85 million units this year and increase 5 percent to 400.88 million units next year, lower than its previous 4 percent and 7 percent growth forecasts.
Additional reporting by CNA