The motherboard market has reached a threshold for market maturity, and because of this, profit margins on motherboards and video cards are razor thin. This is even evident in the number of motherboard and video card manufacturers that have remained, for the most part, successful. The big three motherboard manufacturers, MSI, Gigabyte, and Asus, are still feeling the heat related to profit margins, and therefore are continuously on a quest to diversify their product portfolio. This is reflective of what we have seen going on in the Taiwan technology stock market. This is also transparent of what we heard at Computex and in our first CEO Forum.

One of the most un-treaded areas for motherboard makers is consumer electronics, as this encompasses a wide spectrum of products from everything from LCDs to MP3 players. In our first PM Forum, 62% of product managers reported that they are currently pursuing consumer electronics. Now, this figure includes companies that have not announced their consumer electronic product lines, but still are pursing such products internally. This is in contrast to small form factor (SFF) PCs, which all companies reported to be pursuing.

While SFF is a phenomenon market and can be a cash cow for many, it will not remain so for a long time, since it is also bound to mature. As this market matures, we should expect to see motherboard companies turning to other outlets to make a name for themselves. After all, the name Shuttle, which was previously unknown to many, is now all but synonymous with small form factor.

We saw many motherboard manufacturers turning to very interesting product lines, some of which took us completely by surprise and others were very expected. Asus, for one at Computex, introduced their cellular phones, which are expected to sell overseas in areas such as Europe and Asia. We have been informed that there are no such plans to introduce them into North America, however. Meanwhile, there are other innovative products that take what already is and improves on it. MSI is a great example of this with their Mega Stick 1. MSI has taken a USB flash drive and turned it into a fully functional, on-the-go solution: FM tuner, FM recorder, voice recorder, MP3 player, and of course, a storage device. This may not seem like much at first, but we found out otherwise once we put it through the paces…

Mega Stick 1 – Supercharged USB flash drive


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  • Aaapold - Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - link

    Outwardsound carries the Jens of Sweden, but it lists for $219.95.

  • geckojohn - Monday, November 17, 2003 - link

    So, has anyone tried out this MSI mp3 player?

    I'm really thinking about getting it... Do you know what Newegg's return policy is? Could i return it if it suckS?
  • Zoomer - Monday, November 17, 2003 - link

    It has been around so long, practically all the taiwan/china odm/oems have jumped onto it and produced tons of them.

    If it gets imported to America en masse, I wouldn't be suprised if the price falls to around $70. In fact, I just saw the Hyundai HY-208 MP3 Player + 128Mb Mini Usb Flash Drive for S$139 - that's about USD$77. I would imagine that it would be even cheaper in HK, S.Korea or Taiwan.

    The reason for such popularity? Well, if you are going to get a 128MB usb flash disk for $50, why not toss in another $20 to have it be able to act as a FM tuner/recorder/MP3 player?
    Besides, they are small, stylish, "in" (the current trend).

    This gets me thinking - how much profit would we be able to get if we get them and sell them on ebay? :)
  • geckojohn - Sunday, November 16, 2003 - link

    Hey, So what one would you recommend besides the Sweeden one? Reply
  • OCedHrt - Saturday, November 15, 2003 - link

    Here's some more.
  • FRiC - Friday, November 14, 2003 - link

    Not to mention, Acer has been selling this exact same MP3 player for a few months already, and for a lower price, before MSI released their version... Reply
  • Andrew Ku - Thursday, November 13, 2003 - link

    Well, one more point I need to emphasize, and then back to the other reviews we got on the burner.

    The MSI Mega Stick 1 can't be seen just for its feature set, as size, weight, and price are just as important. If you compare it to the Nomad Muvo, there is a distinct differential in those three specific groups. This is also the case with iRiver.

    Ultraportable notebooks are the "all the rage" overseas, but are not necessarily in the same situation domestically. And in the context of motherboard makers diversifying their portfolio, we do see this to be the first type of product to market. We can eyeball the foreign markets all we want, but the American demographic (I am getting a bit political here... :p ) is very very different from the rest of the world. Not being able to be successful in the American/North American demographic has been a big roadblock to the success of many products.

    And to answer your hint of more MP3 player reviews: yes, we will have more down the road. The reason there are 4 and not more is because we took a hiatus from this section for a while. Our lack of reviews in that time is not an indication that we don't see the MP3 player market proliferating.
  • araczynski - Thursday, November 13, 2003 - link

    america is usually behind in technology, europe/japan always has the newest/smallest gadgets at least a year before america decides to copy them... i remember my brother brining home a cell phone from japan many years ago, while everyone was carryign those bricks around here, they had things a third of the size.

    america doesn't innovate as much as people think, america's good at copying and mass producing at lower prices, which is good too :)
  • boran - Thursday, November 13, 2003 - link

    ehm, may I point you to this site here:

    it's just a "george" or "fred" with the buttons swapped around a bit, even the transfer speeds etc are the same, which makes me believe msi isnt really as innovative as the article is, since the review bout the george dates 11 feb 2003 and you cant claim different weight, specs for function, I believe they R 99% alike (besides logo, firmware and button arrangement)

    you can find around a million clones of the george or fred players on the market, imho my first misinformed review on anandtech cous if the reviewer just would have looked at the available players on the market for just a second he would have seen that there is nothing new or innovative at all with this MSI mp3 player.

  • Oxonium - Thursday, November 13, 2003 - link

    I agree that Anandtech is extremely behind the times with this review. I just hope they make it up to us by having this be the first of many such reviews. Looking at the audio reviews menu, I see only four mp3 player reviews in 2.5 years. The mp3 player market is exploding and evolving as fast as SFF and it is barely being covered. Reply

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