Computex 2013 ended last week in Taipei and was another packed week both in terms of new product and component announcements, rising attendance, and a myriad of insights and new thoughts sparked by what we saw and heard on the ground.
To be sure, the leading news has been the unveiling of Intel's fourth-generation core processor family, Haswell, and the upcoming microarchitecture on which the latest Atom 22nm products will be based, codenamed Silvermont; AMD's Unified Gaming Strategy that offers developers opportunities to port games across devices and operating systems with minimal code modifications, and AMD's Temash and Kabini processors, as well as the high-end notebook targeted series, Richland; ARM's new Cortex-A12 processor core that when combined with the Mali-T622 GPU rounds out their series providing dedicated high feature capabilities targeted for the expanding mid-range sector for smart wireless devices; Nvidia's latest Tegra 4 and 4i series of "Super Chips" dedicated to enhance mobile experiences while attending to power and efficiency and supporting all the demands users make of their wireless devices.
Of course there were numerous unveilings and demonstrations from many other leading and second-tier processor suppliers, all pointing to the expanding processing capabilities of tablets and smartphones as the bridge to PC notebooks is furthered. Much like at CES and MWC, Computex 2013 underscored the importance of smart solutions, from components to devices, but with an important fronting of smart chip architectures as being the true enabler and driver of what will be the next generation of smart wireless devices.
Devices point to second life for PCs
On the device front, the significant growth forecast for smartphones and tablets was not lost on those showcasing their latest smart wireless devices. The size and feature capabilities of smartphones and tablets has certainly increased with in-between device sizes comprising the "phablet" space that had been initially (and successfully) explored last year and is now seeing increased momentum. Furthering the trend of multifunctional mobile devices is the opening for PCs that may be the litmus test for whether we are indeed seeing a shift in or the demise of the PC-era. With global sales continuing to slide for PCs, Computex exhibitors, from the leading OEMs to the smaller whitebox manufacturers were showcasing convertible, or hybrid, devices that seamlessly move from desktop docking to notebook/Ultrabook to tablet device. Being called 3-in-1 or 2-in-one convertible devices, depending on the number of conversions the specific device affords, these ultra-portable computing devices are looking to fill the demand for tablet-like portability, efficiency, and connectivity with the still needed processing power and business multitasking from traditional PCs.
The latest array of Ultrabooks and notebooks hold promise for the high-end computing devices, but may face the still more limited growth due to pricing. There is also the challenge of slowing demand from consumers and enterprise refresh stalls due to the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend that is favoring tablet and smartphone purchases over PC notebooks. However, with the latest set of mid-range priced, mobility focused processors and System-on-Chips (SoCs), that provide both the processing power, enhanced graphics, and related feature demands alongside of power efficiency and smaller footprints, the ability for OEMs and whitebox manufacturers to provide a competitive set of mid-range hybrid devices is a significant opportunity.
The importance of mid-range
As we saw at MWC and SXSW especially, the growth opportunities in the mid-range market for smart wireless devices (smartphones, tablets, and even hybrid tablet-notebooks) is significant. Not only is the forecast for smartphone and tablet growth at lower pricing levels very favorable, but also providing devices dedicated to the emerging markets at the mid-range level is an essential regional strategy for today's semiconductor and electronics industry.
Significant growth is set to continue for 2013+ for smartphones and tablets. The diversity of devices and competition in this sector is full of innovation and opportunities for increased adoption in both developed and emerging markets. The new component architectures displayed thus far in 2013 have opened the doors for new opportunities to shift traditional PC devices into the mobile sphere where new demand could be found. Whether or not this shift proves to be successful or whether we see tablets and notebooks as convertible, hybrid devices to move with users seamlessly through their daily roles will determine the answer to the question of PC-era demise or shift over the next year.