For as long as I can remember, Asus has been the big daddy of the retail motherboard business. However, according to a new report from DigiTimes, Gigabyte's shipment figures are catching up. Quoting a "source from channel retailers," the site says Gigabyte shipped 4.9 million mobos in the first quarter of the year, just 100,000 fewer than its main rival. Asus reportedly shipped more units than Gigabyte in the US and China, but it faced a stiffer challenge in Latin America and Southeast Asia.
Although Gigabyte appears to be gaining ground, DigiTimes claims Asus will enjoy a gross margin advantage thanks to its greater share of the high-end market. Asus has certainly been keen to pimp its high-end boards, and a lot of the features introduced on those premium products trickle down to more affordable models eventually. Gigabyte has also shown more interest in high-end products lately, and it will be interesting to see how things play out in the Haswell generation.
Haswell brings voltage regulation onboard the die, which simplifies the power circuitry for motherboard manufacturers but takes away one more potential point of differentiation. Processors and platform hubs have slowly assimilated traditional motherboard functions over the years, making it increasingly difficult to offer distinct hardware configurations. As a result, there's been a shift toward firmware and software development to make products stand out.
Gigabyte's much-improved UEFI firmware interface likely deserves some of the credit for the firm's strong position of late. Next on the agenda: all-new Windows software to replace the aging and disjointed array of applications usually shipped with Gigabyte boards. I'd expect that new software to debut with 8-series Haswell boards in June, and I'm curious to see whether it can match the slick interface and powerful functionality offered by Asus' recent AI Suite software.