As we recently noted, tablet PC shipments are likely to overtake those of notebooks in North America this quarter. In a milestone for the global industry, in October tablet PC panel shipments exceeded those of notebook PC panels. Can this be an indicator of a broader shift to tablet PCs from the clamshell notebook PC?
Monthly Notebook PC & Tablet PC Panel Shipment
Source: NPD DisplaySearch Monthly TFT LCD Shipment Database
As panel shipments are always the leading indicator for set shipments, it can be seen that tablet PCs are threatening to overtake notebooks. The notebook PC may need to move to the high end with ultra-slim form factor, or to the low end, low-cost thick box, to compete.
The October panel shipment results from the following factors:
- The notebook PC supply chain has some slow-moving inventory impacting panel purchases, and panel shipments declined by almost 4 M units from September to October.
- Notebook PC panel buyers are limiting panel purchases in order to prepare new designs for the coming Windows 8 models.
- Tablet PC shipments soared to build inventory for the holidays, as well as for the many white-box tablet PCs emerging in China. Strong growth in tablet PCs for kids and education is also a factor, but could be a seasonal effect.
So, October panel shipments could be a special case and we will need to keep watching to judge whether tablet PCs overtake notebooks earlier.
In any event, tablet PCs have been the hottest TFT LCD panel application this year, with higher-end technologies required to produce the panels and higher visual specifications, but also fast growing demand from the end market even at relatively high panel prices. With an expanding customer base for TFT LCD panel makers (Google, Amazon, Barnes & Noble were not customers a year ago but now they are purchasing many tablet PC panels), the fast growing tablet PC is having an impact on the production strategies of panel makers.