Hardware

Sarah Mishkin

Acer, the Taiwanese computer company, has struggled for a while to sell enough computers to stay profitable, but investors still found room for disappointment in its most recent results.

Shares were down nearly 4 per cent in Taipei today after management spoke with analysts and the media to explain its second quarter operating loss of NT$613m and its 19 per cent year on year fall in revenue to NT$89.4bn. Read more

Who’s buying?

PC companies just can’t get a break.

Shipments from the Taiwanese manufactures that make most of the world’s desktop and laptop computers hit a three-year low last quarter as consumers waited for fixes to Windows and decided to buy tablets and smartphones in the meantime. For those Taiwanese companies, those disappointing stats are one more reminder of the need to diversify away from their core PC business.

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Indian makers of tablet computers are elbowing their way into the domestic market, which is expected to expand rapidly in the next few years, writes Avantika Chilkoti

Although Samsung and Apple feature strongly in the Indian tablet market, figures from the International Data Corporation, an information technology research company, show India’s two leading domestic manufacturers have grabbed a market share of more than 20 per cent.

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Sarah Mishkin

Asus sales rise to $3.8bn

Asustek’s latest results confirm that the Taiwan-based company has some reason to feel as optimistic as it does. Its tablet sales, both of the Nexus 7 and its other convertible tabs, are already doing well, and, looking forward, reviewers and analysts have been relative positive on the new Windows 8 devices it launched this week.

A few weeks ago, its competitor Acer reported an 11 per cent fall in revenue, and global PC shipments are down more than 8 per cent this quarter. For the third-quarter, however, Taiwan-based Asus said its sales were up 9.2 per cent year-on-year to NT$111bn ($3.8bn), slightly more than analysts had been expecting. Read more

Tech has had a rough week, between the worries surfacing about Microsoft’s Windows 8 and doubts about Apple’s newly unveiled iPad mini and disappointing second quarter results.

Those worries have taken their toll on supply chain companies and computer makers in Taiwan, for whom the fourth quarter is not shaping up to be the holiday-led recovery many hoped for.

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Sarah Mishkin

At least one Android maker is optimistic right now.

Asus, the Taiwan based company behind Google’s Nexus 7 tab, announced some very ambitious sales goals on Wednesday, predicting that the company will grow leaps and bounds ahead of the overall flat PC market – and could even beat Samsung to become the number one manufacturer of Android tablets.

With the rest of the industry predicting far more modest growth, can Asus really deliver?

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Over the past decade, technological advancements have made televisions thinner and thinner, with giant cathode ray tube sets replaced by flatscreen TVs whose thickness are now measured in millimeters.

Starting next year, however, ‘fatter’ flatscreen TVs may be making a comeback in emerging markets, according to one screen maker.

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Google announced on Wednesday that it is spending more than $200m to build its first proprietary data centres in Asia, a move that reflects the growth in demand for internet and cloud-based services in the region.

These are not, of course, Google’s first servers in Asia, though they are the first in the region where Google is publicly disclosing their locations. They will also be the first that Google will build from the ground up, from acquiring the land to designing the customised servers. Read more

If consumers like iPad-like devices, and they also like smartphones, what could be even better than a Padfone?

That was the thinking at Asus, which on Monday unveiled its latest invention ahead of the Computex trade show. Read more

The outlook for consumer PC sales for the rest of the year is getting murkier and murkier. A drop-off in US sales in July, followed by continued weakness in early August despite the traditionally bountiful back-to-school season, has already started ringing alarm bells among analysts.

 

Now there’s additional evidence, from the world’s biggest notebook casing manufacturer, that any quick uplift in end demand is unlikely . Ju Teng makes the outer shell of a notebook – a manufacturing process that involves more than 300 steps and 400 different materials – for all the world’s top PC brands.

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It’s only been a few weeks, but Liu Yingjian, founder and chairman of Hanwang technology, already appears to be one step closer to his goal of making China’s biggest e-reader company a Fortune 500 company.

Mr Liu told the FT about this ambitious plan at the end of April, and we were a bit sceptical given the challenges Hanwang would face in order to achieve it, especially as consumers’ attention have clearly shifted from e-readers to tablet PCs in recent months.

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Acer clear.fi user interface

Speed has long been one of the secrets behind the success of Acer, the Taiwanese company that is now the world’s biggest seller of notebook PCs. 

Last April, they moved aggressively into the so-called ‘ultra thin’ notebook category by announcing plans for 30 models within the year.  At last year’s Computex trade fair, Acer became the first to unveil a prototype notebook running on Google’s Android operating system.

Now, within days after Google announced its grand plans for taking over our living rooms with Google TV, Acer said Thursday it plans to perform a similar feat using something it calls the ‘clear.fi’.  Apparently this year they couldn’t even wait for Computex, which opens next week, to make the announcement. Read more

There just still seems to be no clear consensus on whether netbooks – cheaper, simpler notebooks that were one of the fastest-growing tech segments last year – are starting to lose steam.

Paul Otellini, Intel chief executive, insists the tablet PC won’t “eat the notebooks’ and netbooks’ lunch”, while others suggest the netbook’s breakneck growth is running up against other barriers such as rising manufacturing costs . The latest numbers from Taiwan’s Market Intelligence & Consulting Institute, a government-backed research institute, hardly help clear up the issue.

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Over the last few months, AU Optronics, the world’s third-biggest flat-panel maker, had the dubious honour of being the last major independent flat-panel maker in the world. The Taiwanese company Thursday, however, made it clear that it agrees with its rivals: vertical integration is the way to go.

Unlike its rivals who are each allied to just one brand, however, AUO is casting its net wide by partnering with a number of Chinese TV brands. On Thursday AUO said it would add two more of its clients to this list by establishing TV assembly joint ventures in China with both Haier and TCL Multimedia.

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It is not often that a results conference comes complete with a lecture on the future path of semiconductor development should Moore’s Law reach its limits, but then Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing is not like many other companies – few other chipmaker produce as many different types of chips for as many different applications.

Among the highlights of the 20-minute talk by Chiang Shang-yi, TSMC vice president of research and development:

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How quickly the cycle turns. Barely a year ago D-Ram chipmakers couldn’t move fast enough to cut capacity as they struggled with oversupply during the industry’s most severe downturn. On Wednesday, the head of investor relations at Micron, the US memory chip company, confirmed what many analysts had been predicting: There is a shortage of Nand flash memory and D-Ram in the market.

This good news is tempered by the consideration that, over the history of the D-Ram industry’s existence, any shareholder gains made during the upturn have inevitably been destroyed in the next downturn. Many D-Ram makers, when presented with that fact, had last year vowed to be more disciplined should they make it out of the downturn, but can the tiger really change its stripes? Read more