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Vendors fuel netbook hype at Computex

Posted: 05 Jun 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:netbook? processor? software?

A handful of semiconductor companies announced new chips and software for netbooks and other mobile systems at the opening day of Computex. Software issues surrounding Adobe Flash and Linux still dog some of the mobile designs, and one underscored the cloud still hanging above the computer industry.

Broadcom, Nvidia, SanDisk and Qualcomm filled out product lines for chips and announced some design wins in netbooks at the trade show. Intel filled out its line of notebook processors with chips it said will power a new segment of ultra thin and light systems sporting eight hours of battery life.

"There's quite a battle between smart phones and netbooks," said Shriraj Gaglani, a senior director of business development at Broadcom. "There's a perceived opportunity there because there is no leadership in that category right now," he added.

Many of the products shown at Computex are prototypes that Taiwan contract manufacturerscalled ODMshope are quickly snapped up by brand-name systems companies and wireless carriers to be sold in their global markets.

"We are trying to marry up the ODMs and wireless carriers," said Michael Rayfield, general manager of the Nvidia group that makes its ARM-based Tegra mobile processor for netbooks and smart phones.

Rayfiled's group has met with 27 carriers and will have representatives at a Computex event from more than 100 of them, including service providers from Brazil, Central America, India and Mexico. "The wireless carriers will be a very powerful channel for distributing these devices," he said.

Gloomy outlook
ABI Research claims netbooks and ultramobile PCs will drive sales of more than 120 million units by 2012. However, Tim Luke, research analyst at Barclays Capital, said the economic downturn still looms over the Taipei event.

"The main takeaway [from interviews at Computex] is that PC order rates are slowing, and minus a reacceleration in June/July, we think semis may struggle to outperform this summer," Luke said in a research note published June 2, the opening day of Computex.

"Every company that we met with indicated that PC order rates are slowing," he said. "The rate of deceleration from up double-digits in April to down as much as 20 percent last month caught us by surprise," he added.

Luke singled out wireless chipmakers Atheros, Intersil, and Marvell as most in danger from the slow down.

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