Embedded-motherboard market shifting toward smaller form factors

DECEMBER 22--In a recent study of the global market for active backplane motherboards in embedded and real-time applications, Venture Development Corporation (Natick, MA; www.vdc-corp.com) has confirmed that this market is shifting rapidly toward the use of smaller form factors.

Dec 22nd, 2004

DECEMBER 22--In a recent study of the global market for active backplane motherboards in embedded and real-time applications, Venture Development Corporation (VDC; Natick, MA; www.vdc-corp.com) has confirmed that this market is shifting rapidly toward the use of smaller form factors. VDC divided standard-form-factor motherboards into two classes, based on surface area:

82 sq in.--including ATX, EmbeddedATX, BabyAT, BTX, LPX, MicroATX, NLX
< 82 sq in.--including 3.5 in., 5.25 in., EBX, EPIC, FlexATX, and MiniITX.

Although the share of shipments attributable to the larger form factors is expected to decline by 9.7% over the 2004--2008 period, overall market growth will more than compensate for the decline. Actual dollar volume shipments of these boards are expected to increase by 11.8%. However, among these larger form factors, only NLX, MicroATX and BTX are expected to show increases in actual dollar volume shipments.

Says J. Eric Gulliksen, director of VDC embedded hardware practice, "A trend toward use of smaller-form-factor motherboards is certainly understandable, because available space has become increasingly constrained. Recent improvements in densification technologies are allowing this shift to take place. The most notable of these improvements is the advent of the Pentium-M processor, which provides high computing speed and power while maintaining low power consumption and heat generation." Other factors that are enabling this shift include higher levels of on-board integration, reducing the need for expansion slots, and provision of USB ports, allowing for simple peripheral connection and further reducing the expansion slot requirement.

Gulliksen went on to say that "the highest projected growth rates are for the BTX, EPIC, and MiniITX form factors. Of course, these are quite new with low base-year shipment values, which somewhat skews the data. Nevertheless, we expect at least EPIC and MiniITX to make significant penetrations over the period of the study.

"EPIC, which provides PC/104 family expansion capability and has provision for PCI Express, may provide a 'shot in the arm' for the PC/104 industry," he continued. "This form factor provides an attractive middle-ground size alternative between EBX and standard PC/104 CPU modules."

Venture Development Corporation is an independent technology market research and strategy consulting firm that specializes in a number of embedded, industrial, defense and niche enterprise IT markets. VDC has been operating since 1971, when the firm was founded by graduates of the Harvard Business School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


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