March 2001 Industry Update

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Based upon the responses I received from my survey, trends in the motherboard segment are continuing as they have been. Two of the manufacturers indicated that 70% of their U.S. shipments are Socket A or Socket 7 boards, with the rest being Socket 370. Surprisingly, one manufacturer claimed that their Socket 7 board outsold all others in February, while another indicated that theirs has steadily been one of their top sellers for the past 6 months. Interestingly, both of these manufacturers indicated that their primary target market is gamers. The remaining manufacturers indicated that between 15% and 40% of their shipments worldwide are Socket A, a few percent are Socket 7, while the rest are primarily Socket 370. All those respondents who offer Socket 423 (Pentium 4) boards claimed shipments are still too small to consider (under 1%), though there is some anticipation that shipments will improve considerably in Q2.

Overall, the VIA 694x chipset was named by the majority as the most popular Socket 370 chipset, with the VIA KT133 the most popular Socket A chipset. One manufacturer did indicate that the 693 chipset is most popular, however. This obviously explains the continued success of VIA as they dominate the major platforms, though a few manufacturers are expecting the ALi MaGiK1 chipset to take some of that due to the relative lateness of the KT266 chipset. An interesting bit of into that came out of this survey is that the larger manufacturers reported that close to 50% of their motherboards shipped have Intel chipsets and about 50% have VIA chipsets, while most of the smaller manufacturers reported a much higher percentage of VIA chipsets (70% or more). This is likely because these larger manufacturers are direct with Intel and may get better pricing and a steadier supply.

Probably the most surprising results came from the question about which chipset resulted in the greatest percentage of customer complaints. Several manufacturers named the i815E as having the worst customer satisfaction, which seems completely contrary to conventional wisdom that says VIA chipsets are the most problematic. The recent spate of problems with VIA’s 4-in-1 drivers that required at least four new versions in only a few months did get a mention, and several manufacturers avoided naming any chipset as problematic.

With the recent reports that NVidia, ATI and Micron would be entering the chipset market this year, a number of respondents indicated that they would be looking at using chipsets from one or more of these companies. The most frequently named were NVidia and Micron, with Micron seeming to generate the most amount of enthusiasm.

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