IHS iSuppli reports notebook sales saw a weak start this year. The research firm estimates the top five notebook makers will ship only 35.2 million units this quarter, down 15 percent from last quarter's 41.4 million units. Laptop shipments in the first quarter typically see a seasonal decline, but this year's drop is particularly sharp.
The world’s leading notebook PC original design manufacturers (ODM) will endure a bleak first quarter and slow first half in 2013, before ultrathin PC sales help revive the market later in the year, according to an IHS iSuppli PC Dynamics Market Brief from information and analytics provider IHS (NYSE: IHS).
Notebook PC shipments from the Top 5 ODMs are forecast to amount to 35.2 million units during the first quarter, down 15 percent from 41.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2012. While shipments commonly decline in the first quarter compared to the fourth, the drop this year is expected to be particularly sharp.
“Notebook ODMs in early 2013 are feeling the pain from the combined impacts of uncertain economic conditions and slower-than-expected sales of Ultrabook PCs,” said Peter Lin, senior analyst for compute platforms at IHS. “Consumers are remaining wary as uncertainties linger in the global economy, and a slowing in the markets of Europe, China and the United States further depresses sales. More importantly, smartphones and tablets have been outselling notebook computers, and demand for Ultrabooks and other ultrathin PCs so far has not taken off as expected. However, an expected increase in demand for Ultrabooks and other ultrathins will help reignite notebook PC shipments from ODMs to their client OEMs in the second half.”
Taiwan on top
All based in Taiwan, the Top 5 notebook ODMs are employed by original equipment manufacturers (OEM), which use them on an outsourced or contract manufacturing basis in order to make computers that are then branded by the OEM to sell to the public. The key strengths of Taiwanese notebook ODMs include low manufacturing cost, flexibility, quick response and high vertical integration—qualities that most major notebook OEMs are keen to leverage in the design and manufacture of their own branded products.
Among OEMs, Hewlett-Packard last year outsourced its notebook PCs to Taiwanese-based ODMs like Quanta Computer, Compal, Wistron, Inventec, Pegatron and Hon Hai. Lenovo did the same, contracting out to Quanta, Compal, Wistron and Pegatron.
Meanwhile, the ODM Quanta had its hands full with orders from computer makers such as HP, Lenovo, Dell, Acer, Asus, Toshiba, Apple, Sony and Fujitsu.
Within the ODM circle, No. 1 Quanta will suffer a decline of more than 10 percent in the first quarter, although its perch at the top will not be threatened as the giant manufacturer continues to be the biggest notebook ODM. In comparison, second-place Compal will see a drop of 5 to 10 percent, while No. 3 Wistron will also be down 10 percent on the quarter.
Ultrabooks to the rescue
After a shaky start, the notebook ODMs will start picking up steam as the year unfolds, IHS iSuppli believes.
Though not performing as expected last year, ultrathins are being given a new lease on life in 2013 in light of new features, including improved battery power, a form factor that lets the display be detached for use as a tablet, a higher-performance central processing unit in the form of Intel’s Haswell chip, and the gradual uptake of the recently released Windows 8 operating system.
The ODM market will recover starting in the second half of the year. And at the close of 2013, notebook shipments from ODMs to client OEMs will rise 5 percent from their 2012 level of 156.9 million units, IHS iSuppli estimates.