JANUARY 30, 2009--The market for PC/104 family boards was US$248.4 million in 2007 and projected at US$262.7 million in 2008, according to the latest embedded stackables research from VDC Research Group (Natick, MA, USA; www.vdcresearch.com), released last month.
Actual 2007 dollar shipments of PC/104 family boards were 5.7% lower than had been projected in VDC's most recent prior PC/104 study, published in 2006. The firm says this may be in part due to a delay in the release of a standard covering use of PCI Express as a module-to-module interconnect. The delay may have slowed PC/104 growth in high-end applications over the past two years. Ultimately, the PC/104 Consortium issues a set of specifications generically called PCI/104-Express (including PCI/104-Express and PCIe/104), while a new body, SFF-SIG, issued a somewhat different standard called Express104. Both have the potential for success, according to VDC.
The PC/104 family comprises several relatively small, fragmented niche markets. The architecture is often used in highly specialized applications where customization, quality, and satisfying the application requirements are paramount, even more important than price, says VDC. Leading vendors are often relatively small and very focused, successful through being "in sync" with their customers. Larger, more diverse suppliers also compete in this marketplace by utilizing similar tactics.
Of the established PC/104 family architectures, PC/104-Plus shows the highest projected growth, replacing traditional PC/104. The firm says both suppliers and users recognize the inadequacies of the old ISA bus and are moving toward the faster PCI bus. However, many prefer to retain the ISA bus as well because of its backward compatibility with legacy expansion modules. For this reason projected growth of PCI-104 is substantially lower than that of PC/104-Plus.
The new PC/104 Express category (including PCI/104-Express, PCIe/104, and Express104) is projected to show a very high growth rate. However, it is pointed out that base year 2007 shipments of these were very small (approximately US$0.4 million). Thus, even a modest actual increase in revenue may result in a significant rate of growth.