Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and other suppliers of microprocessors to PC manufacturers can expect improved conditions in 2013 as demand swings up again, with the industry segment positioning itself to regain market share lost to smartphone and tablet PC vendors.
Industry researcher IDC said in a report today that it sees microprocessor sales rising slightly to $40.7 billion this year, up 1.6 percent from 2012 on a 3.2 percent jump in unit shipment to 384 million. The company forecasts microprocessor sales will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 3.4 percent between 2011 and 2016, while unit shipments will grow at a slightly lower rate of 3.2 during the same period.
This doesn't mean PC microprocessor vendors can relax. The competition for market share between them and suppliers of processors to the tablet PC and smartphone segments will intensify in coming months as each side tries to convince consumers and corporate vendors of the superiority of their products.
Right now, the momentum seems to be on the side of smartphone and tablet PC vendors and their suppliers. Demand for these smaller form-factor products is surging, despite the introduction of ultrathin notebooks positioned as competitive alternatives, IDC says.
Shane Rau, vice president for PC and server semiconductor and enabling technologies research at IDC, explains:
Macroeconomic uncertainty has forced OEM and IT customers to reduce orders and focus on execution, and reduce expectations after the launch of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system in late October. Delays in PC purchases caused by Windows 8 and the encroachment of media tablets on low-end PCs have further cut into PC microprocessor demand growth.
On a manufacturing and supply chain level, IDC has what I consider very important advice for microprocessor vendors. It suggests they focus on performance, execution, cost, and productivity improvements as well as innovation. It would also help, says Rau, if they improve the consumers' perception of PCs. This implies helping users see computers as value providers rather than mere functional devices. Rau continues:
For vendors of microprocessors and other PC technologies, the future belongs to those who can best execute on a vision of what computing ultimately should be and how users assess the value to them.
Vendors should strive for an increased perception of value so systems can be sold on their utility and not merely their price. Such a transformation requires time for assessment and education along the value chain. It also requires sustained investments in the PC ecosystem distinct from the investments going into the hot tablet ecosystem.