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Industrial PC market faces competition from ARM-based products

13 January 2012

Recently released IMS Research statistics show that the world market for industrial PCs (IPCs) was estimated to be worth $2.07 billion in 2010, up from $1.7 billion in 2009. Growth forecasts put world IPC revenues at $3.5 billion, or over 3 million units shipped, in 2015.

Revenues from embedded box IPCs are projected to grow the fastest.  These highly rugged IPCs are well suited to harsh environments where water, extreme temperatures, dust, humidity or vibration may make other IPCs unsuitable.  The footprint of embedded box IPCs is also getting smaller, largely because of component minimization; this means that they are being adopted in applications where size might have inhibited adoption of IPCs in the past. This is particularly true in some transportation applications.

However, these low-power, fanless IPCs are likely to face increasing competition from ruggedised ARM-based products, which increasingly are being developed by companies previously focused on x86 IPCs.  The Intel Atom opened up the market for IPC use in lower performance and power applications and now suppliers are looking to ARM-based products to further this. 

Report author Mark Watson comments: “During research for the latest annual edition of the IPC report, a large number of IPC suppliers stated that they were already developing ARM-based products or had plans to do so soon.”  Particularly in applications where low power consumption is important, these ARM products will directly compete with Atom-based IPCs. Watson continues: “As the next Windows operating system (due to be launched at the end of 2012) will support ARM it is very likely that products with this architecture will reduce the growth of the low-end IPC market.”

IPCs, based on x86 architecture, will continue to dominate adoption in higher-end applications. In many of these applications, power consumption is simply not an issue and is less of a concern than processor performance or overall system functionality.

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