Consumer Electronics

Notebook PC Demand Expected to Rise in 2012 (AAPL, MSFT, DELL, HPQ)

There is some good news for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT), Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL), and even the bruised Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ).  TrendForce’s DRAMeXchange is forcasting that better growth in the notebook PC market will be seen in 2012.  There is one small problem, and that is that the total 2011 notebook market was only up 1% in 2011.

The recent weakness (actually low growth) was exacerbated by the economic downturn, but also was exacerbated by the Japan Earthquake and the flooding in Thailand.  After just a 1% projected growth in 2011, the new research from DRAMeXchange is signaling a 8.8% growth in 2012.

The driving force is Ultrabook sales and the coming launch of Windows 8 in 2012. Regular notebook sales are expected to grow by over 10%, and shipment volumes should rise to 194.6 million units in 2012 from 173.4 million units in 2011.

Netbooks are losing pace big time, something which you probably knew already.  They are just “so-2008 and 2009!” for the tech-savvy.  The rise of the tablet market now signals that netbook shipment volumes may fall to 18.6 million units in 2012 from 22.4 million units in 2011.  A 17% drop is not welcome, but by most counts the netbook margins were thin for producers and they were cannibalizing notebook sales.

As far as notebook annual shipment growth rates, the new research points that this has reached a plateau.  The old growth was 20% over the past few years and the new growth rates should be 5% to 10%.

DRAMeXchange also noted that, in light of uncertain global economic outlook in 2012, PC-OEMs are seeking new opportunities.  It noted, “The Ultrabook concept, proposed by Intel at Computex 2011, was well-received by major brand vendors in hopes that Ultrabook can revive NB market demand.”  The research shows that this success will be based upon its cost and price.

As far as who wins, we already have some seen some possible peaking in Intel and Canaccord Genuity’s building inventory concern is worth noting.  If the delays live up to historical levels after the holidays, then there could be some softness in the first quarter of 2012 for the chip and processor giant.

Dell has been trying to perform as well as it can and it has been trying to take advantage of the H-P turnaround troubles.  Both companies have allowed Apple to jump leaps and bounds past them on the “coolness” factor and Apple had such a huge first-mover jump in the tablet market that Dell, H-P, and many others were just left in the dust.

Our big question around Windows 8 is that PC-buyers and enterprises may have to start wondering how different these operating systems are helping.  It seems as though the operating system upgrades need to come in the fashion of “This time, you need to upgrade and we really mean it this time.”  With consumers buying tablets and using their smartphones as PCs on the go, there is one more challenge for a new Windows launch.

JON C. OGG