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11 Trends In The Motherboard Market

Biswajit.HD

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The size of the Indian motherboard market is estimated to be around 3.2-3.5 million units based on projections by IDC and Gartner for the white-box PC market for 2011; the numbers are expected to be more or less the same next year. The total market is estimated around Rs 1,000 crore in 2012.



While the growth rate in the desktop market is not expected to be on par with that of mobile computers, innovations by motherboard makers are the primary reason for the market growing. In this article we present 11 top trends in the motherboard market in the country.

Upcountry driving growth
While in class-A cities customers are increasingly preferring laptops over desktops, white-box PCs are still preferred in smaller cities and towns. This has prompted vendors such as Asus, Gigabyte, Mercury and Intel to scout for partners in these areas.

“Over the past year or so we have been focused on identifying partners in smaller towns because we see huge growth from upcountry markets. PC penetration is very low in D and E class towns, and first-time users as well as other consumers are preferring desktops over laptops. There has been growth in some class A cities too, surprisingly,” says Sunil Grewal, Sales Head, Gigabyte India.

Asus leading the market
While no statistics are available from any established research house, most vendors agree that Asus has the highest market share—over 30 percent.

Gigabyte is said to be the second-largest vendor in the country, followed by Intel and Mercury. Partners feel that Digilite, which has a strong network of support centers and partners, could spring a surprise in 2012.

Intel motherboards losing charm
Once upon a time most system builders used to push Intel motherboards, upselling the genuine Intel advantage. However, partners feel that because Intel does no real promotion for the assembled PC anymore, the demand for genuine Intel PCs and genuine Intel motherboards has fallen.

“Intel’s service and support was lagging in many parts including Kerala; this has helped other brands. In addition, the schemes from Asus, MSI and others are very aggressive, and they have definitely pushed the case for alternate brands,” says Toshy Mathew, CEO, ABC Computers, Kochi.

However, Intel has gained market share in Q4 2011, through aggressive bundling of processors and motherboards, admits competition.

AMD seeing incremental growth
Investments made in channels by AMD are certainly producing results. Nevertheless, according to most motherboard makers, things are still heavily skewed in favor of Intel, with the chip major having around 85 percent market share. Some players such as Mercury and Intel (naturally) do not offer AMD options.

“AMD has certainly seen some momentum over the last 12 months, and their strategy of increasing feet on the street has worked. This should transition to better numbers,” comments Vishal Tripathi, Principal Analyst, Gartner India.

G41 being phased out, H61 going mainstream
Over the past few quarters, because of the wide range of CPU platforms which are in vogue, there are multiple chipset-based motherboards which are being positioned by both Intel and AMD. G41, the most popular chipset for a long time, is likely to be phased out by most motherboard makers.

“We are expecting G41 to be obsolete soon. The H61 will be the mainstream chipset, while H67 would be the preferred choice on premium boards,” forecasts Sudhir S, MD of the Chennai-based Inspan Infotech.

Adds Vinay Shetty, Country Head, Component Business, Asus India, “We see traction for Z68 chipset-based boards, along with the H67 and H61. Popular AMD chipsets for the next few months would be 990FX, 880G, A50 and A55.”

SATA 6 Gbps stepping in
Most motherboard vendors are phasing out models with the older SATA 3 Gbits connectors, and replacing them with the new SATA 3.0 standard connectors that support 6 Gbits speed. However, partners are of the opinion that for customers to make the best use of this new standard they would need to start buying the faster and more expensive enterprise SATA or SSD drives which support the 6 Gbits transfer speed.

USB 3.0, DVI & HDMI becoming standard options
Says Sunil Kumar, CEO, Lampo Computers, a system builder based in Bengaluru, “We are increasingly seeing models with USB 3.0 ports that offer speeds—at least in theory—in the range of 5 Gbits ( practical speeds are in range of 270 MBps). We expect that somewhere in 2012 motherboards with just USB 3.0 ports will appear. While USB 3.0 standard has been ratified long back, chipsets from AMD and Intel supporting this standard appeared only in 2011,”

Another option that is fast becoming a standard is HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) ports that even entry-level AMD platform boards have as a standard. With DVI also becoming a standard, a new market for home theater PCs is evolving.

Gaming, workstation motherboards showing growth
The Indian game user market is finally opening up. Almost all vendors are increasingly seeing the market for gaming PCs becoming a reality; from less than a couple of thousand units a month, the market size is known to have tripled.

“In future we see two or three segments propping up the assembler market. The gaming market is one of these, with thousands of gamers actively waiting for the launch of new motherboards and GPU models. We estimate gamers to account for between five to eight percent of our sales,” says Grewal of Gigabyte.

For the workstation market vendors have introduced dedicated motherboard SKUs, with more PCI/PCIe slots and memory banks. One of the reasons for the better acceptance has been the drop in the prices of professional graphics cards on both the AMD ATI and Nvidia platforms, thus making it affordable for a system builder to build workstations.

New form factor taking center-stage
While mini-ITX motherboards have been around for a long time, the new form factor—thin mini-ITX—is expected to be popular in future. Intel has been promoting this new form factor.

A thin mini-ITX board has the same PCB size as a regular mini-ITX board (170x170 mm) but with approximately half the height of the standard IO shield. This enables a low-profile board that is suitable for AIO integration.

Another feature of such motherboards is low-profile SO-DIMMs (seen in notebooks) instead of the standard-sized DIMMs. With IDC forecasting that 38 percent of the desktop market could be on AIO models, the thin mini-ITX is the form factor that motherboard makers will position for system builders.

“This is definitely the future. We will soon have a bare-bone chassis for AIOs available in the market, and system builders should bank on this opportunity,” says Shetty of Asus. Some system builders (such as the Bengaluru-based Connoisseur Electronics) have already launched AIO models, with touch screens, at less than Rs 25,000.

Motherboards going green
‘Green is in’ became a motto for most IT vendors almost half a decade back. However, only recently have motherboard vendors started shipping boards that have real energy management features. “We are increasingly seeing demand for motherboards which are energy-efficient as customers and partners are showing awareness for such products,” says Sushmita Das, Country Manager, Kobian, India.

However, different brands have different approaches for implementing energy efficiency inside a motherboard. There are competing designs from MSI, Asus and Gigabyte which vary from being purely software (Gigabyte) to purely hardware (MSI) to mixed (Asus) approaches.

Remarks Sudhir Sankar, CEO of the Bengaluru-based IBS Infotech, “While all vendors claim that their design is superior, there is no clarity on whether energy efficiency is a factor which can be controlled on a motherboard since power usage depends on factors such as the hard drives, CPU TDP and peripherals you attach.”

Server platforms increasing
For many years, to build a white-box server, the only option was to rely on Intel for motherboards. Now, with Supermicro appointing more distributors, and Asus throwing its hat in the ring with server motherboards, the options for building servers have increased for system builders.

For the past eight months Asus has been successfully selling the Asus KGPE D-16 motherboards that sport up to dual 12 core Opterons. Adds Sandeep Lodha, Director of the Delhi-based Netweb Technologies, “Supermicro definitely has a bigger range of server platforms, and that’s a reason why we are betting on it so heavily.”

source : CRN
 
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