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Thursday, 20 January 2005 19:00

News Roundup 20 January 2005


Global PC shipments rise in '04 - Dell stays on top

Dell remained the uncontested No.1 personal computer maker in the world, following another quarter of strong growth, as the global PC market grew 11.8 percent in 2004, market research firms IDC and Gartner have just reported.

The New York Times/Reuters report (18 Jan.) that PC shipments worldwide rose 14.7 percent in 2004 to 177.5 million units, according to IDC, while rival market research firm Gartner reported an 11.8 percent increase in PC unit shipments to 189 million.

The figures differ because IDC and Gartner use different methodologies to measure the global PC market.

But, IDC and Gartner both said that overall, strong sales of notebook PCs and steady consumer and small and medium business demand, as well as large corporations updating aged PCs, helped to drive growth in 2004 from 2003.

There had been concerns in the fourth quarter and in December that the PC market was headed for a sharp slowdown.

The two firms said that Intel is the world's largest chipmaker, and its microprocessors power more than 80 percent of the world's personal computers.

Dell widened its lead over rival Hewlett-Packard in 2004, achieving 17.9 percent market share of the worldwide PC market, up from 16.7 percent in 2003, IDC reported. HP trailed Dell with 15.8 percent, down from 16.2 percent in 2003.

The NYT reported that HP had said it was folding its barely profitable PC business into its lucrative Imaging and Printing Group, which generates the bulk of HP's operating profit. The move effectively quashed further speculation that HP might spin off the printing unit.

Falling component prices in the fourth quarter allowed Dell to cut prices further and gain margin and market share, Gartner said, while IDC reported that worldwide PC unit shipments climbed 13.7 percent to 51.5 million in the quarter from a year earlier, helped by strong notebook PC sales.

The research showed that IBM, which recently agreed to sell its PC business, ended 2004 as the No. 3 PC maker, with 5.9 percent share of the PC market, Fujitsu/Fujitsu Siemens was No. 4 with 4.0 percent share and Acer rounded out the top 5 with 3.6 percent share of the PC market, IDC said.

The paper reported that Gartner showed Apple gaining share in 2004, thanks in part to its revamped iMac G5 all-in-one desktop computer. Apple finished 2004 with 3.2 percent of the US PC market, up from 2.9 percent in 2003, and the fifth largest US PC maker.

Sony-Ericsson JV in cellphones reports a gain

Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications, the cellphone joint venture owned by the Sony Corporation and the Swedish telecommunications equipment maker Ericsson, has reported a 28 percent gain in fourth-quarter profit as mobile phone shipments rose more than 50 percent.

The New York Times/Bloomberg News report (19 Jan.) says net income at Sony Ericsson, the world's sixth-biggest mobile phone maker, rose to 55 million euros ($US72 million) from 43 million euros a year earlier. Earnings included a tax charge of 45 million euros. Sales jumped to 2 billion euros from 1.44 billion euros a year ago.

The report said the company, based in London, became profitable for the first time last year as its handsets featuring cameras became popular. At the same time, competition from Asian manufacturers and price cuts by Nokia have put pressure on Sony Ericsson, which lost its position as the world's fifth-biggest handset maker to LG Electronics in the third quarter.

The company shipped 12.6 million phones in the quarter, 56 percent more than a year earlier. Pretax profit rose to 140 million euros from 46 million euros a year earlier; the latest results were short of the 165 million euros analysts expected.

The paper reported that Sony Ericsson's third-quarter global market share grew to 6.4 percent from 5.3 percent a year earlier, spurred by strong sales in Western Europe, according to the latest figures from the research firm Gartner. LG's market share grew to 6.7 percent from 5.3 percent.

Video game industry sales reach record pace in 2004

The video game industry enjoyed record sales in 2004, despite a shortage of game consoles over the holiday season, according to figures released yesterday, reports The New York Times (19 Jan.).

The paper says that the data from NPD Funworld, a market research firm, showed that United States sales of video game consoles, portable devices and the games made for those platforms were $US9.9 billion in 2004. That figure is slightly below the overall sales figure of $10 billion in 2003. However, the 2004 figure does not yet include sales of games for personal computers. When those sales are included in a report due in the next few days, overall sales for the year will be a record, according to the research report.

The 2004 sales include a surge in sales of games for hand-held devices, which hit $1 billion in 2004, up from $903 million in 2003.

Industry executives told the NYT that the strong overall sales figures are significant because they come at a time when video game companies and investors had expected a normal cyclical slowdown in the industry.

Such ebbs have historically come as game console models reach the end of their cycles and consumers wait for the introduction of a new generation of devices. Sony and Microsoft, makers of the two most popular consoles, the Sony PlayStation 2 and the Microsoft Xbox, are gearing up to introduce new consoles in the next 18 months.

The NYT reports that the research showed that sales were driven by sequels and games for older players. The two top-selling games were Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which sold more than 5.1 million copies since October, and Halo 2, which sold more than 4.2 million copies since November,. The top 10 titles sold for game consoles in 2004 accounted for 15 percent of overall sales, NPD said.

Over all, sales of games for consoles and portable devices was $6.2 billion. Sales of games for personal computers were $700 million from January through November, with full-year figures expected soon, the paper reported.

Intel Updates centrino notebook computer chips

Intel,the world's largest chip maker, updated its line of Centrino notebook computer chips this week with higher speeds and improved multimedia features, a move the company hopes will further propel one of its fastest-growing businesses, reported Reuters/The New York Times (19 Jan.).

The paper says Intel have said the chips, which had been delayed for a few months because of a technical glitch, are expected to appear in 80 notebook models immediately, and 150 by year-end. Pricing and other details are to be disclosed at a marketing event this week.

Backed by a massive global advertising push, Centrino Mobile Technology has been viewed by analysts as a big hit for Intel, allowing it to sell a bundle of three chips -- a microprocessor, a supporting chip set, and a wireless chip -- under a single, widely recognised brand. PC makers cannot use the Centrino brand unless they buy the entire bundle of Intel chips.

The brand's success has attracted competition from archrival AMD whose Turion 64 Mobile Technology chips, to be released in the first half of the year, will also go after the highly profitable thin-and-light notebook segment.

But, the NYT says Intel, however, commands about 85 percent of the notebook microprocessor market, although analysts say that notebook computing, with its higher margins and better growth potential, is another important battleground for Intel versus AMD.

The paper further comments that the launch of the Centrino brand in 2003, backed by hundreds of millions of dollars in marketing and advertising, has encouraged, or at least coincided with, a spurt in notebook sales and explosive growth in the use of Wi-Fi high-speed wireless networking technology.

The new chips that make up the updated Centrino brand, which had been codenamed ``Sonoma,'' include a more capable Wi-Fi radio, a faster microprocessor, and a chip set with more powerful integrated graphics and sound capabilities. It also includes support for faster connections to peripherals like external data storage through a technology called PCI Express.

The package of chips will become the centerpiece of Intel's mobility group, one of five new business organisations created in a corporate restructuring announced earlier this week.

Unlike Intel, AMD says it has no plans to require its customers to buy a package of chips in order to use the Turion brand. AMD said it leaves it to customers to select a wireless chip and a chip set from one of dozens of chip suppliers.

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Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.





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