Laptop Shortages Will Endure

Between delays to Intel processors and flux in the LCD market, don't plan on fast delivery of notebook systems in 2004.

Delays to the next-generation Intel chip has forced vendors to shift back product releases, and this contributed to a supply problem that had already been sparked by changes to the consumer market. Since last year LCD panels have been in short supply, thanks to the near-vertical shift from CRT-based TVs to aggressively priced LCD TVs coupled with increasing demand for notebook computers and flat-panel monitors. The biggest problem: Display-fabrication houses were not set up for panels of the size needed for the new TVs and had to shift production rapidly.

While I had hoped manufacturers would be able to address these problems by year-end, they have evidently used this time to shift capacity; thats fueled the shortage problems and caused prices on some displays to creep up.

Demand for panoramic types ranging from 15.4 to 50 inches wide is pushing resources from traditional form factors. These new lines, which are reporting very poor yields, are consuming substantial resources previously earmarked for LCD desktop displays.

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These fabrication shifts have created two problems: spot display shortages and an increase in display prices. This situation may also cause laptop prices to rise over time despite market resistance.

I expect spot shortages and some price creep in notebook computers and LCD displays (including LCD TVs) to persist through 2004. Even when Dothan (Intels latest mobile chip) ships, the LCD problem wont be decisively resolved until Taiwan completes retooling or brings enough manufacturing capacity online to overcome the shortfall.

That means buyers of notebook computers and LCD displays will have to be somewhat flexible, or patientU—especially during the next six months. Enterprises would also be well-advised to increase the number of spares they have on hand so spot shortages dont catch you without product for new employees as your company begins to staff up for recovery.

Finally, contact your chosen vendors and ask them about these shortages. The information they provide may help you select a configuration that can be fulfilled more promptly.

Rob Enderle is the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a company specializing in emerging personal technology.