Inside IC shipment trends: Portable, tablets driving CAGR

December 10, 2010 – IC shipments are surging again as the key PC market rebounds off three dismal years with renewed strength thanks to portable computers, which are widening the sales gap with chip-stalwart desktop systems (including systems used as servers), notes IC Insights.

PCs are still the largest end-use application for ICs (31% of total 2010 revenues), and will snap a three-year slump in 2010 by growing 18% to 351M units shipped. Sales value of the ICs in those PCs will surge about 34% to a record $81.4B. IC Insights sees 12% PC shipment growth in 2011 (394M units), while PC ICs fall back to 10% growth ($89.2B). PC ICs will enjoy a ~11% CAGR for the entire 2009-2014 period, reaching $101.2B in that final year.

But within that growth in PC ICs, it’s important to understand that the real driver is portable systems, whose low-power and battery management requirements means using higher-priced chips than desktop systems. Portable PCs overtook desktops in 2009 (157M units vs. 140M) and should grow 27% in 2010 to ~200M units, vs. just 8% for desktop ICs to 151M, IC Insights calculates. And that gap is growing — the firm expects 242M portable PC shipments in 2011 vs. 152M for desktops, growth of 21% vs. a meager 1%.

And within that portable PC segment are other important trends. Notebook shipments are seen growing 20% to 155M units; mini-notebooks (aka "netbooks"), "the darling of the portable PC market in 2008 and 2009" nearly tripling in size each of those years, will be up just 19% to 31M units. Give credit to the tablet computing revolution ushered in by Apple’s touchscreen iPad; this sector (excluding dedicated e-book readers e.g. the Amazon Kindle) will ship 15M units in 2010, up from just over 1M units in 2009, and another 129% in 2011 to 32M, ultimately reaching 86M units in 2014. (That’s an eye-popping 131% CAGR over six years.) Mini-notebooks, meanwhile, will eke out just <7% CAGR to 36M systems shipped, vs. 14% in standard notebook PC shipments to 253M units. And desktop PC shipments will crawl into 2014 with 2% CAGR and 155M units in that final forecast year.

 

PC IC sales rise again in 2010-2012. (Source: IC Insights)

 

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