Throughout 2014 the motherboard market was dominated by four major brands not including Foxconn. They were ASUStek, Gigabyte, ASRock and Micro-Star International (MSI) respectively. Together, these four vendors ship over half of the world’s motherboard product to consumers, with ASUS and Gigabyte both pulling in over 20 million motherboard shipments each this year alone. According to reports from Digitimes, though, some of the big brands are planning to shy away from price wars in 2015 and focus more on profitability for 2015.
Digitimes’ report notes that ASUS has been the main culprit of price wars using multiple SKUs with features cut and a flood of low-end Intel H81 motherboards to secure their position in the budget market. You’ve probably seen some of this in my System Builders guides this year as I’ve made mention several times of ASUS pricing their motherboards well, but chopping out features to give their products a wider audience that is mostly price-sensitive. Its not until you pony up for the H97M-E for around R1300 that you finally see an ASUS board with a M.2 port, while the board itself is otherwise very unremarkable.
According to sources close to the motherboard makers, Digitimes reports that ASUS will continue on with their slew of options at every price point imaginable, while the other three will drop out of the price wars and focus more on profit as the computer market shrinks.
“Asustek’s annual motherboard shipments are expected to return back to 22 million units in 2014, but the increased volume will come mainly from its competitors, especially second-tier players such as Micro-Star International (MSI), ASRock and Elitegroup Computer Systems (ECS), not growth in the overall motherboard market,” Digitimes reported.
“ASRock has been impacted the most from the price competition in terms of both shipments and profitability. MSI’s gaming notebook business is expected to contribute strong profits in 2014, helping the company to cover its motherboard business’ decline. But for 2015, the two players will both stop pushing for shipments and will try to keep their businesses profitable.”
This is going to be a crucial point for the motherboard industry next year. With Intel’s Broadwell processors no longer seeing a launch on the desktop, any current projects need to be scrapped for it and all the focus must be on Skylake, due to launch some eight months from now in 2H 2015. AMD has new products popping out early next year with the Carrizo APU family, but the volume from those product won’t be extremely high. With Intel as the driver for the industry, every motherboard vendor has to wait for Intel’s products to launch before they can scale up their operations.
Digitimes also notes that small China-based vendors like Colorful, Jetway and Topstar may see their markets shrink or disappear altogether as they struggle to fill in the gap as everyone waits for Skylake. Some consolidation may occur in the next few months and that will be a sad thing to watch.