Gigabyte expects laptops to decline in popularity

COMPUTEX — One of our most interesting encounters at Computex so far wasn't a product; rather, it was what we heard Gigabyte's Henry Kao calmly explain in the VIP section of Gigabyte's Taipei 101 suite. According to Kao, who serves as VP of Gigabyte's motherboard business, "smart" handheld devices will gradually replace notebooks, and we will see a resurgence of desktop PCs before too long.

That prediction seems to fly in the face of recent market data, which tends to show notebook sales growing quicker than desktop sales. Nevertheless, Kao backed his statement with some numbers: smart phone vendors ship about 60 million units yearly, he said, while notebooks are a 200-million-unit market. Kao expects smart phones shipments to rise to 100 million next year. Add slate devices like the iPad (which seems to be selling quite well) to those figures, and the balance could shift.

The way Kao sees it, handheld growth will basically end up eating into laptop growth, and desktops will start growing quicker than notebooks again within just three to five years. Eventually, folks will have one desktop PC at home storing all their data—Kao doesn't think cloud storage will take off in that respect—and at least one smart handheld device to use on the go.

With that view of the future, it's no wonder Gigabyte maintains a strong focus on motherboards—unlike, say, Asus, which has branched out quite successfully into notebooks and netbooks (although it did introduce some slate devices at the show this week). Gigabyte has ambitious goals for the U.S. motherboard market in particular, expecting to unseat either Intel or Asus to become the U.S.'s number-two motherboard maker in terms of market share.

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