人電腦生產商宏碁股份有限公司(Acer Inc., 2353.TW)今年完全自主設計了一款筆記本電腦﹐這是該公司十多年來第一次把觸角伸向自己不熟悉的領域。
隨著越來越多的消費者轉向智能手機和平板電腦﹐全球個人電腦行業正在經歷十年來最嚴酷的寒冬。市場研究公司HIS預測﹐今年全球個人電腦發貨量將下降1.2%。分析師們稱﹐蘋果公司(Apple Inc. AAPL -0.85% )、聯想集團有限公司(Lenovo Group Ltd. HK:992 -3.12% )、華碩電腦有限公司(Asustek Computer Inc., 2357.TW)等今年表現較好的公司﹐相當一大部分產品為自主研發﹐這並不全然是巧合。蘋果公司所有的產品研發基本都由該公司自己完成。
面對不斷下降的市場份額﹐惠普公司(Hewlett-Packard Co. HPQ -11.95% )和宏碁正在收回外包業務。
今 年前九個月宏碁的研發支出同比增長超過一倍﹐達到新台幣22億元（約合7,580萬美元）。宏碁表示﹐公司旗艦產品今後將完全自主研發。分析師們預計﹐宏 碁今年的盈利規模可能會創重組十年來的次高水平。秋季上市的Aspire S7是宏碁十多年來完全自主設計的首款筆記本電腦。
緯創資通股 份有限公司(Wistron co., 3231.TW)、英業達公司(Inventec Co., 2356.TW)、和碩聯合科技股份有限公司(Pegatron co., 4938.TW, 簡稱﹕和碩)、廣達電腦股份有限公司(Quanta Computer Inc., 2382.TW, 簡稱﹕廣達電腦)、仁寶電腦(Compal Electronics Inc., 2324.TW)等默默無聞的台灣企業設計生產了全球幾乎所有型號的筆記本電腦。雖然這些公司的總部和設計人員在台灣﹐但它們的工廠大多在勞動力成本較低 的中國大陸。
凱基證券股份有限公司(KGI Securities Co., 6008.OT)分析師Angela Hsiang稱﹐個人電腦生產商已經意識到它們需要更多地關注產品的外觀。它們正在進行更多的自主設計﹐以便驗證這種做法的可行性。
惠普發言人Michael Thacker表示﹐惠普仍有業務外包給ODM﹐但公司已經開始承擔更多的產品開發職責﹐並且已經培養並壯大了自己的設計團隊。戴爾公司(Dell Inc. DELL -1.59% )表示﹐還在與ODM合作﹐但不願進一步置評。
廣達電腦董事長林百里(Barry Lam) 8月份時曾表示﹐除蘋果公司外﹐大多數個人電腦廠商沒有自主設計能力﹐它們只能繼續求助於ODM。
Divergent Views on Signs of Life in the Economy
Signs of revival on the factory floor emerged in the United States and Asia on Monday, fueling exultant buying on Wall Street and reinforcing a sense that genuine economic recovery was unfolding.
But if the Great Recession has indeed relaxed its grip on American life, it has been replaced by something that might be called the Great Ambiguity — a time of considerable debate over the clarity of economic indicators and the staying power of apparent improvements.
Manufacturing expanded in the United States in December, the fifth straight month of gains, amplifying hopes that a job market hobbled by double-digit unemployment might finally be adding paychecks. New jobless claims slipped markedly last week. Some economists think data to be released on Friday will show the economy gained jobs in December, the first monthly net increase in two years.
“We’re really coming back,” said Allen Sinai, chief global economist at the research firm Decision Economics. “The expansion is picking up the pace.”
Investors pushed up stock prices, with the Dow Jones industrial average gaining 156 points, or 1.5 percent, and oil prices reaching a 14-month high, $81.51 a barrel. [Pages B1 and B8.]
But many economists remain worried that momentum could soon weaken, with the economy sliding back into glum times.
Indeed, the only area in which economists can reliably declare expansion is in the supply of competing narratives about the economy — perhaps to be expected in any transition between downturn and the inevitable turn for better.
“That is always the nature of the boomlet after recession,” Mr. Sinai said. “People think it’s going to fade away.”
Much of the improvement in manufacturing — a small slice of the American economy — is the result of businesses rebuilding inventories after slashing them. The economy has also been stoked by $787 billion in federal spending aimed at stimulating growth, a force that will be largely exhausted by the middle of the year.
Those skeptical of lasting recovery assert that, once businesses have rebuilt inventories and federal largess runs dry, the economy will confront the same assortment of ills plaguing it for two years.
Namely, Americans are saturated in debt and nervous about job prospects, prompting many to hunker down in a mode of thrift; businesses still spooked by dysfunction in the financial system are reluctant to hire more workers until recovery proves real; and a cataclysmic drop in home prices has diminished spending power in millions of households, with another decline possible as foreclosed properties surge onto the market.
“You come back to the unfortunate reality that the underlying problems are still very much there,” said Joshua Shapiro, chief United States economist at the market research firm MFR Inc. “It’s going to be a long grind.”
Few economists expect a double-dip recession, in which the economy begins to expand only to contract again, but many fear a protracted period of stagnant growth that could last several years, much like Japan’s Lost Decade in the 1990s following the calamitous end to an era of excessive real estate speculation.
Indeed, some liken signs of improvement in the American economy to events in Japan, where victory was often prematurely declared.
“Japan had lots of upswings,” said Stephen King, global chief economist at the banking conglomerate HSBC in London.
Mr. King foresees a long period of adjustment to slower rates of economic growth in the United States.
The American economy expanded at a roughly 3 percent annual pace through most of the 1980s and 1990s, then dipped to about 2.5 percent from 2003 to 2007, and most of the gains stemmed from the disastrous investment bubble in real estate.
“What are you left with in terms of underlying growth?” he asked. “The answer is, not very much.”
But economists of a more optimistic type assert that such views fail to account for what has been happening in recent months. Areas of the economy that went into deep freeze have revived and must grow just to replenish their inventories.
Exhibit A in this narrative is the widely watched index of manufacturing activity produced by the Institute for Supply Management, which reported on Monday increasingly robust orders and production at American factories in December.
The purchasing manager’s index rose to 55.9, its highest level since April 2006, back in the days before subprime entered the American lexicon and before economists began to fret about a potential replay of the Great Depression.Hopes for a lasting recovery were also bolstered by news from China, where data released Monday showed its economy expanded in December at a faster clip than at any time since the beginning of the global downturn. Similar data amplified evidence of recovery in South Korea, India and Taiwan.
“Strong growth in Asia reverberates around the world and helps U.S. exports,” Mr. Sinai said.
The worldwide factory revival is no momentary event, argues Robert J. Barbera, chief economist at the research and trading firm ITG, but rather the return to everyday business after an overreaction to the terror that gripped financial markets in the fall of 2008.
During the panic, companies cut too many workers and pared back too much inventory in a frantic bid to limit costs, Mr. Barbera argues.
“You’re having a global reversal of inventories and trade, and I don’t think that’s ephemeral,” he said. “If it was important on the way down, why shouldn’t it be important on the way back up?”
Mr. Barbera anticipates the economy will add some 2.5 million new jobs this year — far less than the roughly 7 million net jobs that have been lost over the last two years, according to the Labor Department, but still a considerable improvement.
As people spend paychecks at other businesses, they create jobs for more people, spreading the improvement in national fortunes. This prospect captured attention on Wall Street on Monday. As investors absorbed evidence of factory expansion, they saw signs of more cash registers ringing up sales, more insurance agents writing new policies, more trucks carrying more product and more transactions brokered by banks.
But whether growth in manufacturing indeed spells new jobs throughout the economy remains a question. Mr. Shapiro, the MFR economist, argues that companies have become permanently lean, mastering the art of producing more with fewer people — a trend with staying power.
A government report on Monday, for instance, showed a slump in construction spending, which fell a seasonally adjusted 0.6 percent in November to its lowest levels in six years.
Stock markets may be reflecting the exuberance of improved news headlines more than fundamentals, say analysts, and some buyers may be jumping in out of fear of missing the next fiesta.
“Typically, what happens with individual investors is they just chase the market,” Mr. Shapiro said. “There’s an element of that for sure.”
But while pundits are prone to dismiss the stock market as a kind of indecisive judge at a beauty pageant, its movements have substantial impact on wealth and confidence. These, in turn, shape spending and employment.
In this context, the stock market may prove to be the wild card whose resilience cements a still nascent recovery.
“It’s part of a process by which households that were devastated are now improving their balance sheets,” Mr. Sinai said. “Their net worth is going up, and some of those households are going to spend.”