HP: Asia's workstations market 'may still grow'

While region's revenue is likely to be flat in 2009, markets such as China could do well, says HP exec. Company hopes its new Z series may also be a boost.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor
A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.

Riding on the launch of its new completely redesigned workstations, Hewlett-Packard is cautiously optimistic this market will still see growth in the region, in spite of the global recession, according to an executive for Asia-Pacific and Japan.

Prior to December 2008, HP workstation shipments in the region were growing between 20 percent and 30 percent year-on-year, S.K. Sim, HP's director and general manager of workstations for Asia-Pacific and Japan, said in an interview Friday with regional media in Los Angeles, California.


Dreamworks Animation tapped HP xw8600 workstations powered by Intel Xeon quad-core processors for its latest 3D production, Monsters vs. Aliens.
Source: HP

With the economic downturn, the company expects the market "to be flat at least for the year", Sim noted. However, pockets of growth, such as in China, may still be expected. Southeast Asian countries including Malaysia and Singapore, are also "surprisingly still quite strong", he said. Citing IDC figures, he noted HP has over 40 percent market share in China.

In addition, there are also new opportunities and markets for workstation products, Sim pointed out. For instance, building design is an up-and-coming market as manufacturers including automakers, increasingly rely on technology to alter design features and development processes of cars. Another is medical imaging, where raw data is fed to workstations equipped with appropriate software, aiding in diagnoses.

HP's commitment to advance workstation technology is expected to continue, said Sim. "Workstations are a core business for HP, and personally, I don't think there will be any slowdown in R&D."

Competition eye opportunities in gloom
Chae-Gi Lee, Gartner's research director for client computing markets under its Technology & Service Provider Research group, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview that the region's workstation market "will be impacted a lot" by the global economic conditions. However, the analyst was not able to provide any forecast.

Seoul-based Lee said the Asia-Pacific workstation market grew by 51 percent in 2007, and 11 percent in 2008, in terms of vendor revenue. HP, he said, was the market leader in Asia, while Dell Computer ranked second. Globally, however, Dell has a slim lead over HP in workstation market share.

Dell, which Gartner said grew 17 percent by revenue in Asia last year, is also feeling the heat from the downturn. In an e-mail, Rana Saha, Dell's Asia-Pacific and Japan director for workstations product management, said the vendor has witnessed a recent slowdown in the market. "We also see customers are going to stretch out their prior workstation investments or delay their buying decisions," Saha added.

On the other hand, he noted, Intel's new Nehalem processors for workstations which also launched Monday, have provided "huge improvements" that may encourage customers to invest in new technology.

Sun Microsystems' marketing director for Asia South, Chong Soon Cheong, noted in an e-mail, the downturn may not be significant on compute-intensive applications, as users will continue to invest in compute speed to improve on cost efficiency. "The impact will be more adverse for segments where workstations are used as standalone machines. Customers may delay product refresh or upgrades and may look at alternatives, such as thin clients," Chong pointed out.

HP workstations get bold redesign
HP officially launched Monday in the United States its new workstations, the Z series, which were designed in collaboration with BMW Group's Designworks USA.

Getting animated about workstations

HP counts among its workstation customers, Dreamworks Animation, which campus in Glendale, Calif., relies on HP equipment--desktops, workstations, servers and printers--to meet its production goals of releasing two animation films a year.
According to Derek Chan, head of digital operations at Dreamworks, hundreds of workstations and artists are required to work on one animated film, which also takes up over 40 million rendering hours. The campus has more than 9,000 cores in its 3,500 feet data center.
Dreamworks is also a partner of HP, as it was involved in the development of Halo, HP's telepresence or videoconferencing technology. HP DreamColor also resulted from the two companies' collaboration.

The Z workstations come in three models--the entry-level z400, midrange offering z600 and the new series flagship product, the z800, Jim Zafarana, HP's vice president and general manager of workstation global business unit, said last week as he unveiled the new range to journalists in Los Angeles.

Zafarana noted that customers were consulted in the design of the new machines. For instance, some universities asked for the ability to easily perform maintenance without "bleeding hands". To support this, HP and Designworks designed components to not only be injury-friendly, but also affix to one another to minimize bolts. Power supplies can also be removed without disconnecting cables, which also allowed the latter to be hidden.

The new models are equipped with new Intel Xeon 5500 processors based on the Nehalem architecture. This series saves 35 percent more energy over its predecessor--the xw series--and for the first time, include a WattSaver feature that lowers power used in a "hibernate" mode from 2.1 watts to 0.8 watts, Zafarana said. And although not immediately available, the Z workstations will eventually support solid-state drives.

The new workstations will at a later date also include Skyroom, a new desktop videoconferencing and collaboration technology from HP. Skyroom, said Zafarana, has 50 alpha testers and will be in beta testing from Apr. 1.

HP's Z workstations will be commercially available in the United States on Mar. 30, with prices starting at just under US$1,000 for the z400. Details on availability of the new products in the Asia-Pacific and Japan region, will be announced in coming weeks.

Correction: This article incorrectly stated that China is Hewlett-Packard's fastest-growing workstation market in the region. HP has since clarified that its market share in China is over 40 percent.
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