The future is foggy for computer peripherals as cloud computing and all-in-one devices take over.
Computer peripheral equipment comprises the many devices connected to or working with PCs or other computers. With the current decline in PC sales, one would expect the future of the computer peripherals market to be in decline. This is true, but counteracting this to some extent is growth in ultramobile devices, which may need various peripheral gear, such as keyboards, and innovation in the peripherals segment.
Income numbers for three major peripheral equipment makers — HP, Seagate Technology, and Logitech — show tepid sales over the past two years of the economic recovery:
- Connector use in inkjet printers is primarily FPC with RJ45 and USB for I/O connectors.
- Inkjet heads use a variety of interconnects, mostly OEM with flexible circuitry and micro-spring pins.
- Laser printers use FPC, but also a variety of PCB and WTB connectors.
- Printer sales volumes are down; estimates for 2013 show 102 million units, down 10% from 2012 and 2011.
- The consumer segment is hardest hit, while business applications showed modest growth.
- Market shares of the major players broke down as follows: HP ~40%, Canon ~20%, Epson ~15%, Brother ~7%, Samsung ~7%, and all others ~ 11%.
- There is a decline in the need for printing as more data is stored and viewed on smartphones, tablets, and PCs.
- The 15-20% decline in PC sales over the past two to three years resulted in less of a need for new printers.
- There is an undeniable shift to ultra-mobile devices, which typically don’t use printers.
- For the consumer, there is readily available retail and web photo printing.
- Countervailing these trends are business and institutional markets — some still swimming in paper.
- We’ve also seen increases in usage of specialty printers, such as large format systems, color laser, and all-in-one systems.
- 3D printers will remain a specialty printing product for some time to come but they are growing in industry usage.
- The I/O connector trend will continue to be RJ45 and USB, but with more WiFi printer capability.
- HP, Canon, and Epson continue to innovate, while Kodak’s consumer inkjet printer failed.
- Business printers from HP, Xerox, Canon, Kyocera-Mita, and others continue with very little, if any, growth in revenue.
- Barring some major innovation, consumer market printing prospects are somewhat dim over the next five years because of now-familiar disruptive technologies. Business and institutional printing will see modest growth.
- Demand for external monitors is waning in the wake of the decline in PC sales and the upward trend of all-in-one systems.
- Connector use in monitors includes various I/O connectors: VGA, DVI, DisplayPort, and HDMI.
- DP and HDMI are on the rise while the venerable VGA interface is decreasing in popularity. There is no room for legacy connectors.
- Change in this product area is hastened by the fact that ultramobile systems lack redundant ports but greater bandwidth is needed for multimedia.
- HD, UHD, and LCD technologies are on the rise in phones, tablets, ultramobile PCs, and external monitors.
- The next stage in externals will be 4Kx2K technology that will require new video cards and DP or HDMI 2.0.
- Some market segments, such as banking, design, government, and air-traffic control, have seen modest growth.
- In addition, many businesses use terminal devices that access a network or server.
- Keyboards, once the domain of desktop PCs, are on the decline following the decrease in desktop PC sales.
- Keyboards may have one USB port or a mini dongle for wireless connectivity to the desktop.
- Notebooks and Ultrabooks have built-in keyboards and may be touch-enabled.
- Tablets and smartphones have no keyboards.
- There is growth in Bluetooth keyboards for tablet owners who prefer to type, and they work well.
- Detachable keyboards for tablets, such as the Microsoft Surface, are attracting interest.
- Over the next five years, these applications may make up for losses in the consumer PC market.
- Voice input is a possible threat, but it conflicts with the way the mind works; it will be an adjunct to type or touchscreen input.
External Hard Drives
- Hard Disk Drive technology is one of the quandaries in the electronics industry: It is arguably very high-tech with IC-like improvements (area density) and hyper volume, yet hard on profitability.
- There has been massive industry consolidation, with manufacturers whittled down to Seagate, WD, Toshiba, Fujitsu, and a few others.
- There is also the real threat of Flash technology, which is taking over the mobile segment.
- Connector usage includes FPC, SATA, SAS, and USB. Solid-state drives also use these I/O connectors.
- HDD markets went through a high-growth period over the past decade, aided by external HDD applications.
- With cloud computing taking off, the future of external HDDs is not as bright and may experience negative growth.
- There will remain a segment of users who prefer their own storage and backup at 500GB to 2TB of storage.
The Future of Computer Peripherals and Disruptive Technology
The computer peripherals market is undergoing a challenging transition to an ultramobile world. Companies in this market segment have gone the extra mile to innovate new products and solutions. Over time, this should pay off after the dust settles on the current spate of disruptive technologies. Currently, business markets are faring better than consumer, but are still only in single digits. However, there remain steep hills to climb: The effects of tablet, smartphone, and UltraBook usage; cloud computing and storage; and the fallout from the decline of desktop PCs.
John MacWilliams, Market Director, Bishop & Associates, Inc.
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