We participated in a small interview session with the management of Gigabyte's motherboard division to find out what sorts of challenges and opportunities the Taiwanese company sees for itself in the coming years. Present at the table was Henry Kao (vice president, motherboard business unit), Tony Liao (vice president, sales & marketing, North America), and Jackson Hsu (product manager, motherboard business unit).
Perhaps the most startling view was relayed by Kao. He said that the desktop market is very important for the next years for the company because of shifts happening in the portable space. Specifically, he forecasted the death of notebooks.
Kao pointed to the explosion of internet-enabled smartphone devices and the rising popularity of tablets. More than any other type of device, he named the iPhone and iPad as game changers for the mobile computing space.
Because of the internet capabilities of said devices, Kao said that users will eventually stop buying notebooks for their mobile computing needs. Instead, everything done away from the desk or even on the road will be through a smartphone or tablet.
"All of those devices, internet connected, will be better than ever," Kao said, adding his prediction that the shift away from notebooks to will take a three to five years. "100 percent replacement won't happen overnight."
What's interesting to note is that both Kao and Hsu walked into the Q&A with iPhones in their hands, and would periodically pick them up off the table to check something before setting them down again. Kao admitted that the problem with smartphones today is that typing into them is still a challenge, but once that gets solved through new features or on different form factors like the iPad, then the importance of the notebook will go down.
To predict the death of the notebook is a bold claim for anyone, but that sort of thinking is one that Gigabyte's motherboard division hopes for. If notebooks were to be replaced by smartphones and other MIDs, Gigabyte is banking on the users still wanting a desktop at the home or office.
"Once those people have those mobile devices, people need performance desktop at home or the office," said Kao. "When iPad launched in the market, Gigabyte already supported iPad's charging requirements."
Besides just capability differences, Kao believes that users aren't ready to commit to cloud-based storage and applications.
"People still want to store their data in their personal systems, not in Google," he added.
With the current trend of notebook sales climbing on top of desktop sales, it'll be interesting to see if mobile devices can shift the tide. Gigabyte believes that the future will still rest on its motherboard business.
"People are still talking about the death of desktop, but they're still around," Kao said.