Asian firms still like their desktops

Despite rising popularity of notebooks and netbooks, desktops still have a place in region's consumer and commercial markets, say industry watchers.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

Despite increasing competition from notebooks and newer form factors such as netbooks, the desktop is not dead--and won't be anytime soon, say industry observers in the region.

According to IDC data, portable systems accounted for 45 percent of total PC shipments in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan, in the second quarter of 2009. During the same period last year, portable PCs contributed just 35 percent of total shipments.

Reuben Tan, IDC's Asia-Pacific senior manager of personal systems research, said in a phone interview that market growth for portable systems has been driven largely by mini-notebooks or netbooks, as well as the ultra-thin form factor.

Tan noted that the introduction of more form factors within the portable space further underscores the shift toward notebooks, with vendors seeing higher notebook sales and offering more notebook models.

This growing demand is also reflected in the commercial space, where deployment of portable PCs saw a 15 percent sequential growth in the second quarter.

Despite the momentum driven by notebooks, however, there are still growth drivers pushing the desktop space, said Tan. "There is [definitely] a lot of activity happening in the commercial notebook space, but…there is still ongoing demand for commercial desktops," the analyst said.

Desktop demand is "still very strong" in terms of commercial deployment, particularly in more conservative sectors such as government, he said.

In e-mail interviews with ZDNet Asia, vendors Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Lenovo echoed IDC's sentiments.

Dennis Mark, vice president and general manager for desktop systems at HP Asia-Pacific and Japan's personal systems group, said the company is seeing "strong growth" in its desktop business across the region, particularly in emerging markets.

"Desktops remain an integral part of an enterprise or SMB's (small and midsize business) infrastructure due to their superior power, storage, processing and graphics capabilities," Mark said.

There are also specialized uses for different desktop form factors, he added. Workstations, for example, are ideal in certain vertical markets such as engineering or animation, while in general office, medical, financial, educational or call center environments, thin clients may offer the best desktop experience.

Chong Tze Sing, Lenovo's commercial desktop product manager for Southeast Asia, said: "Desktops and notebooks have different usage scenarios so they do not necessarily compete with each other. Factors like mobility and cost can largely determine if a user, corporate or consumer, decides on a desktop or notebook."

"Within the commercial sector, desktops are still in demand due to data security and cost," Chong said. Commercial desktops currently in favor are priced between US$400 and US$600, and the trend toward this price range is expected to continue, he added.

According to Chong, Lenovo sells more notebooks than desktops in much of the Southeast Asian region, except in Vietnam and the Philippines, where the purchasing power of consumers is lower.

Helping desktops live on
IDC's Tan noted that desktops have evolved to serve niche groups within the consumer and commercial markets. "PC vendors are trying to differentiate the desktops as much as possible, such that this form factor doesn't die an early death," he said.

One end of the consumer market spectrum is occupied by entry-level affordable PCs such as Atom-based nettops, targeted at consumers who are cost-conscious or purchasing a desktop as a secondary PC. On the other end of the market are high-end users who prefer to configure their own PCs, or are serious gamers that demand the best performance.

Tan added that all-in-one desktops or multimedia centers that tap touch technology have also gained traction.

Similarly, within the commercial desktop space, there are also varied models that differ in feature sets, price points, chassis size and even support levels, which cater to different users and IT budgets, he added.

"Dollar for dollar, for an equivalent level of performance…in terms of bang for your buck, a desktop still makes sense in many instances," noted Tan.

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