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Netbook (or Low Cost) PC Market

1. Low Cost PC with SSD Shipment and NAND Flash Density Doubled in the Year of 2009 / DRAMeXchange Market Info Update

2. Netbook popularity may be boon for Qualcomm / DigiTimes

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Low Cost PC with SSD Shipment and NAND Flash Density Doubled in the Year of 2009

Aug 19 2008

Low Cost PC commonly refers to NB with a screen size under 10" and priced at the range between $299 to $499. Low Cost PC is primarily designed for internet access and document processing. It is a product positioned between a high end smart phone and traditional NB. Screen sizes of Low Cost PC currently in the market are between 7" to 8.9". Low Cost PC originated from the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) movement in 2005, but the actual products were not launched until 4Q07, and this has created a new market demand in the PC industry.

Take the Asus Eee Pc for example. The product is clearly defined as the second home PC for consumers in developed countries. Regardless of the limitation imposed by the smaller screen size, Eee PC's shipment volume in Europe and N.A. has proven the evident demand for Low Cost PCs. It provides an alternative to those who were forced to buy a DT PC previously because of price reasons.  Currently, Low Price PC is sold primarily through retail channels.  Its target market is focused on regular consumer and educational institutions.

Asus Eee PC has revised the concept of OLPC and has become the representative in the Low Cost PC market because it focuses on the concept of OLPC and fixed the issue of over-simplification in the prior Classmate PC. After a well-received launch in 4Q07, Asus followed up with the second generation Eee PC 900 in April of 2008 offering both Window and Linux versions. The Eee PC 900 is basically an upgraded 701 – the previous generation Eee PC – featuring an 8.9" screen and a bigger SSD as new selling points.

Eee PC, which used SLC for storage in the previous 701 model, now uses MLC for storage in its new 901 model for further cost reduction. Although MLC is slower than SLC during write cycle, Asus had to switch to MLC given the cost pressure. In order to raise memory access efficiency, Asus employs a Controller IC to control the built in MLC board inside the Eee PC. To balance efficiency and cost, the future trend for Low Cost PC storage application is leaning towards card slot type of approach in which a Low Price PC is equipped, initially, with only enough built-in memory to satisfy the basic needs and with reserved card slots to be used for future memory expansion. With this approach, Low Price NB makers can meet the low cost requirement of Low Price PC, while providing room for new future applications and conveniences. Such approach can also extend how SSD is applied as well.

Focusing on the Low Priced NB niche, many brand name NB makers have launched different products.  Besides EeePC from Asus, Acer introduced the Aspire One with 8GB SSD and 80GB HDD for storage.  HP introduced the 2133 with 4GB SSD (see figure 1). Models from other NB makers such as Everex, VIA, DELL, MSI, GigaByte, etc mainly used Hard Disk Drive (HDD) for storage file.

According to DRAMeXchange estimates, affected by the shortage of Intel Atom processor, the total shipment of Low Price PC will reach 8M in 2008 with an average memory density of 8.3GB. Total shipment should reach 15M with the average memory density exceeding 16GB in 2009, and then increase steadily over the years. Overall, given the continued fall in NAND Flash price, the number of Low Price NB that uses NAND Flash as storage will continue to rise. In addition to utilizing on-board MLC SSD, as the SSD market will matures gradually after 2010, external storage device may also become a popular choice and trend for Low Price PC.


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2. Netbook popularity may be boon for Qualcomm

Michael McManus, DIGITIMES, Taipei [Tuesday 19 August 2008]

While the popularity of the Eee PC from Asustek Computer may help drive the netbook market and benefit PC processor players such as Intel and VIA Technologies, the new found market acceptance for mini-notebook devices may also be boon for mobile handset chip provider Qualcomm and its Snapdragon processor.

According to market research firm Gartner, global mini-notebook shipments are on pace to reach 5.2 million units in 2008 and eight million units in 2009, and with strong growth expected to be maintained over the next few years, shipments could reach 50 million units in 2012.

In addition to demand coming from emerging markets, education and consumers, mobile handset service operators see such devices as demand drivers for their advanced next-generation services. Therefore, Asustek is cooperating with Japan-based telecommunication vendors to push out a 100 Yen (US$0.91) Eee PC bundled with 3.5G online services, and the company is planning to push out a zero or one Euro (US$1.52) bundle with telecommunication vendors in Europe.

Developments in the mini notebook segment are not going unnoticed by global handset chipset leader Qualcomm, and the company is gearing up for the release of similar devices based on its Snapdragon processor late this year or early in 2009.

Qualcomm has already had some success with its Snapdragon in the 4-inch to 6-inch Internet device segments, with Samsung and HTC being two companies that have announced products based on the processor. However, the company also believes the Snapdragon can satisfy market demand for larger sized devices with a full keyboard in the 7- to 12-inch product range - the company refers to these two segments as Pocketable Computing Devices (PCDs) and Mobile Computing Devices (MCDs), respectively.

During Computex Taipei in June, Qualcomm showcased a 10-inch MCD powered by a 1GHz Snapdragon running Linux. At that time, Qualcomm SVP Luis Pineda indicated that the company was not trying to develop computing products that replaced notebooks, but that were complementary devices for mobile professionals.

Pineda compared the device to a UMPC, which would only provide 2-3 hours of battery life and would require a travel charger for a mobile professional on a day trip. In contrast, Pineda indicated the Snapdragon could run on 500mW at 1GHz. That translates into a full computing device that can run all day, or eight hours, Pineda pointed out.

The key focus of such devices would not be CPU-intensive applications but the light computing mobile professionals needed, including office applications, web-browsing, chat, multimedia and email. While the company indicated that it is supporting both Windows Mobile and Linux for its PCDs and MCDs, it is focusing on Linux for the larger full keyboard devices and has been aggressively developing Linux software support for its MCD devices.

Qualcomm indicated that it has formed partnerships to build support for Linux applications on its chip, focusing on applications that it felt would create a lot of usage, such as a desktop browser, email client, OpenOffice, media player and chatting software. Pineda indicated that while Qualcomm will do a lot of the porting and the prevalidation of the OS, it will be the software providers that will work with system ODMs such as Inventec. Qualcomm will focus on chipset support.

Qualcomm believes the market for such devices will be driven by connectivity, especially 3G connectivity, and its experience and leadership in the wireless modem market will provide it with a strong advantage over its competitors from the PC market. Pineda added that the Snapdragon also supports GPS, Wi Fi, Bluetooth, a 12 megapixel camera, as well as support for Mobile DTV technologies such as MediaFLO, DVB-H and ISDB-T. Therefore, system houses and ODMs can design any number of products, from entry-level to high-end touch-screen devices, Pineda indicated.

Pineda also argued that such integration would also make solutions based on the Snapdragon competitive with any netbook solution in the wireless space, as netbooks would require add-ons such as wireless modem cards.

Qualcomm recently noted that more than 20 OEMs are developing more than 30 products using the snapdragon processor, with devices expected to be released at the end of this year or early next year.

Moving forward, Qualcomm expects demand to be even stronger once LTE is adopted in the market. Qualcomm will launch chipsets supporting LTE next year. In terms of WiMAX, Pineda indicated that Qualcomm has no plans to support it with its Snapdragon chip, but the company will monitor developments in the market.