Industrial PC market to recover by 2012

Paul Boughton
According to new research from ARC, the market for industrial PCs is driven by an increasing rate of technological advancements in hardware and software. This includes: the Atom processor, increased computing power, increased ruggedness and failsafe industrial PCs. The market had enjoyed high growth rates until the economic crisis. However, the industrial PC market structure remains fragmented, with no dominant player on a regional or global level. While industrial PC technology itself has matured, new applications and requirements will enable differentiation through hardware and software.
Analyst Florian Güldner, the principal author of ARC's 'Industrial PCs Worldwide Outlook' report, comments: "In 2009, the market dropped by 19 per cent. Even though the recovery will start quickly, the level of the boom year 2008 will not be reached again until 2012. A major factor dampening the recovery is the constant drop in prices that is driven by user demand and a drop in intermediate good prices."
The market for industrial PCs remains fragmented, with the companies enjoying more than two per cent market share representing only 62 per cent of the market. In addition to industrial PC product specialists such as Stahl HMI, the market includes focused automation suppliers such as Phoenix Contact, full line automation suppliers like Siemens and Rockwell Automation, and PC-based automation suppliers like Beckhoff and B&R. Furthermore, PC specialists like Advantech and Kontron, plus hundreds of Taiwanese companies, supply industrial PC products either directly to the market or to other industrial PC suppliers.
One of the most important topics discussed in the market is the build-versus-buy decision. Depth of production varies greatly between suppliers. Many companies use boards from Taiwan in their industrial PCs or brand label industrial PCs.
Various trends within the industrial PC market will affect future growth but Intel's Atom is predicted to have the biggest influence. The Atom processor provides up to 2GHz with low thermal design power. This offers various possibilities to end users and machine builders. First, the low-cost, low-power Atom enables low-CPU power industrial PCs to be produced at a low price and with low energy consumption and low heat. Size-independent computing power also makes new form factors possible - such as flatter panel PCs that are more easily integrated into machines, and small, wide-screen panel PCs.
Asia has its own dynamics in terms of the investment climate and in industrial PC supply and demand. In Asia's emerging markets, Taiwanese industrial PC suppliers dominate this price-driven market, which is slowing sharply with the global economy. Taiwan hosts a number of different companies, which range from component-driven companies that are moving up the supply chain, to established automation suppliers. ARC believes that China and India will not only demand more automation equipment as wages rise, but will also shift towards more sophisticated systems with greater capabilities for achieving international quality standards.
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