Open computing sparks growth in ruggedized stationary PCs

Increasing demand for more productivity and integration with enterprise-level systems will drive an 11% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in worldwide shipments of ruggedized/industrial stationary PCs, according to a recent study by Venture Development Corp. (VDC, Natick, Mass.), conducted in cooperation with Control Engineering.

04/01/2000


Increasing demand for more productivity and integration with enterprise-level systems will drive an 11% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in worldwide shipments of ruggedized/industrial stationary PCs, according to a recent study by Venture Development Corp. (VDC, Natick, Mass.), conducted in cooperation with Control Engineering . The report, 'The World Market for Fully Integrated Ruggedized Stationary PCs,' projects this market will grow from $735.6 million in 1999 to $1,239.5 million in 2004.

The study discovered that overall demand for industrial PCs is driven by:

  • Ongoing need for higher levels of factory automation to improve productivity and profitability;

  • Firms seeking productivity and quality improvements through automation;

  • Increasing integration of factory-floor and executive office systems enabling competitiveness by capturing 'data' and turning it into information; and

  • Increasing displacement of PLCs by PCs, as well as complementary installations, in control applications.

The galloping global communications equipment industry also is expected to fuel growth in ruggedized PC consumption as customers improve time-to-market (turnaround time) and secure more flexibility in operations and product capabilities. For example, products based on the CompactPCI bus allow communications equipment providers and customers to realize faster time-to-market with hot swap and smaller form factors, which are of great interest to ISPs.


Geographic breakdown

The report also estimates that growth of ruggedized/industrial stationary PC shipments will differ somewhat by geographic region. For instance, it anticipates that Europe and North America will experience slightly less than average growth. Despite previous hardships, Asia will likely experience some renewed growth-at slightly faster than average pace-as the region recovers and stabilizes. VDC anticipates that many governments in 0Asia, such as Japan and China, will continue to loosen regulations, making it easier for companies to export products.

Growth in relatively smaller regions, such as South America and other nations, is expected to be the most robust as they continue to invest in infrastructure and factory automation.


Major industries, applications

Shipments to OEM/SI applications for communications equipment was the largest market sector for ruggedized/industrial PCs and it's expected to have by far the highest growth rate, according to VDC's report. This is driven by increasing telephone and wireless network installations worldwide and expanding service features, such as AIN, interactive voice response platforms, and other services.

Other major segments for OEM/SI applications include assembly equipment, electrical/electronics manufacturing equipment, and metalworking equipment. Robotic applications are expected to experience relatively robust growth, as companies use more robots and related PCs to increase productivity and modernize.

Though the automotive industry is by far the largest end-user market, accounting for a quarter of all end-user consumption, its growth is expected to be somewhat less than other end-user sectors. The highest consumption growth rates are forecast for telecommunications equipment production, electrical/ electronics, and pharmaceutical industries.

VDC also forecasts increasing use of industrial PCs in direct and indirect control applications. As the cost of electrical/electronics products falls, and demand rises, increasing use of industrial PCs is expected to help improve productivity and quality control.

NEMA vs. non-NEMA-rated IPCs

Demand for non-NEMA or equivalent rated industrial PCs will outpace that of NEMA-rated PCs, adds VDC's report. Ruggedized PCs shipped with NEBS-compliant enclosures are expected to experience robust growth, as communication providers increasingly demand this extra level of protection.

Primary bus architecture

The report projects that shipments of industrial PCs with PCI will more than double, capturing 35% of the market in 2004 by displacing mainly ISA-XT/AT and PCI/ISA combinations to a lesser extent. VDC reports this trend will be caused by higher throughput and speed provided by the PCI bus, as well as the growing level of acceptance of PCI as the de facto active backplane bus standard.

VDC forecasts shipments of industrial PCs with the CompactPCI bus to more than double over the forecast period, capturing over 30% of the passive backplane market. Reasons for this explosive annual 35% growth include:

  • Growing acceptance among users, particularly those companies in communications and process control industries, and

  • Full compatibility with conventional desktop PCI, offering the same bandwidth and chips as those used in desktop PCs, which will enable future economies of scale.


Microprocessors, OSs, distribution

Speed demands on microprocessors are being driven by software developments, user requirements, and partially by vendor hype used to differentiate products. In 1999, the most common microprocessor in ruggedized/industrial, integrated, stationary PC and workstation shipments was the Intel Pentium. VDC says Intel will likely remain the dominant supplier of processors.

Windows NT is expected to maintain its lead as the most desired operating system among users of ruggedized/industrial, integrated, stationary PCs. VDC also expects that a small, but rapidly growing, share of the market will increasingly embrace Linux as an alternative to Microsoft-based systems.

The study adds that users will increasingly demand enhanced reliability. VDC reports that hot swap capability will remain the most commonly demanded enhanced reliability capability among industrial PC users.

Though sales made by firms' field sales personnel will continue to be the dominant channel, the Internet is expected to play more of a role by 2004 as users seek lower-cost mechanisms and vendors make online shopping easier.

Office-grade competition

VDC's research discovered that about a third of user respondents bought office-grade PCs for industrial automation applications. VDC found increased use of these PCs was a means of increasing system integrators' profitability.

VDC found the most important factors for users when selecting a ruggedized PC are quality/reliability, ease of system interfacing, and dust protection/resistant. The four most identified non-product vendor selection criteria are technical support, availability/delivery, price, and the user's previous experience with a vendor.

Though the future of ruggedized/industrial PCs already looks bright, it will be even brighter as vendors improve their ability to service this market's dynamic needs.

For more information, visit www.vdc-corp.com or www.controleng.com/freeinfo . For more PC control coverage, see the 'How to Build a PC-base Control System' article in this issue.

Present and Projected Rankings by Operating Systems
Used of Ruggedized /Industrial Stationary PC Shipments Worldwide

1999 total shipments: $735.6 million 2004 total shipments: $1,239.5 million
RankOperating systemOperating system
1Windows NT/2000Windows NT/2000
2Windows 95Linux
3Windows 98Windows 95
4DOS w/ WindowsWindows CE
5DOSNext Generation Microsoft
6Windows CEWindows 98
7UNIX-OSFUNIX-OSF
8LinuxDOS
9OS/2OS/2
10UNIX SCODOS w/ Windows
11QNXUNIX SCO
12Next Generation MicrosoftQNX
Source: Control Engineering with data from VDC


Author Information
Timothy Shea, project manager/industry analyst, Venture Development Corp., tims@vdc-corp.com




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