Notebooks ship more than desktops for the first time

December 29, 2008 We’ve just passed a significant point in the history of computing - the notebook has taken over from the desktop as the most popular computing platform, an inevitable milestone on the road to ubiquitous mobile computing and connectivity. Fuelled by the success of the emerging netbook market, global notebook PC shipments rose almost 40 percent in the third quarter of 2008 compared to the same period of 2007 to reach 38.6 million units. Conversely, desktop PC shipments declined by 1.3 percent for the same period to 38.5 million units.

In taking over as the primary computing form factor, the notebook is probably just holding the baton for a few years before its constituent sub-set of netbooks dominates the market – just 500,000 netbooks were sold in 2007, over 10 million this year and IDC predicts 40 million units by 2012. The emergence of the cut down, lightweight, cloud computing netbook has been the big story of 2008. It has taken just 60 years to squeeze a computer which filled a room, into a usable form factor of less then 1 kilogram and a price less than a weekly wage. One wonders what the next decade holds in store for us.

If IDC’s prediction holds true, the Netbook will have gone from obscurity to the dominant “traditional” computing platform in half a decade. The battle between phone-based computing and netbook-based computing is looming with mobile telephones such as the Apple iPhone, Android and Windows Mobile based phones with ever broadening computing capabilities each vying for the consumer. Already we are seeing netbooks approaching half the price of the top mobile phones, so we’re in for an exciting time over the next few years as the netbook market capitalises on its price advantage.

Already this holiday period we have seen RadioShack offering an Acer Aspire One 3G Netbook for US$99 if you take a two-year AT&T DataConnect contract – the same business model which has driven mobile phone sales for decades. In the U.K., the Acer Aspire One has been selling for below UKP200 in places, so it’s not surprising that with such value on offer, the Aspire is likely to retain the top-selling netbook mantle it grabbed during the third quarter. The Aspire One had 38.3 percent of the Netbook market in the third quarter, ahead of the Asus Eee PC 4G.

iSuppli Corp’s press release follows:

Notebook PC Shipments Exceed Desktops for First Time in Q3 Global notebook PC shipments exceeded those of desktops on a quarterly basis for the first time ever in the third quarter, marking a watershed event in the history of the industry, according to iSuppli Corp.

Notebook PC shipments rose almost 40 percent in the third quarter of 2008 compared to the same period of 2007 to reach 38.6 million units. Conversely, desktop PC shipments declined by 1.3 percent for the same period to 38.5 million units.

“Momentum has been building in the notebook market for some time, so it’s not a complete surprise that shipments have surpassed those of desktops,” said Matthew Wilkins, principal analyst for compute platforms at iSuppli. “However, this marks a major event in the PC market because it marks the start of the age of the notebook. The notebook PC is no longer a tool only for the business market, or a computer for the well-off consumer; it’s now a computer for everyman.”

A quarter to remember

The notebook’s ascension to PC supremacy came during a strong quarter for the overall market. “While the third quarter will be remembered as the time when the scale of the global economic/credit crunch truly became apparent, the PC market managed to deliver strong unit shipment growth during the period,” Wilkins noted.

Worldwide PC unit shipments rose 15.4 percent on the third quarter of 2007, with 79 million units shipped. Overall third-quarter PC shipments exceeded iSuppli’s prior expectations of 12 percent year-over-year growth for the third quarter.

Business as usual at the top

There were no changes to the Top-5 PC OEM listings and rankings for the third quarter of 2008, according to iSuppli.

Hewlett-Packard Co. of the United States retained its No.-1 ranking position in the third quarter of 2008, with shipments of 14.9 million units, and a market share of 18.8 percent. Fellow U.S. PC maker Dell Inc. maintained its second-place ranking with shipments of slightly less than 11 million units, giving the company a market share of 13.9 percent. No. 3 was Acer, with a market share of 12.2 percent resulting from shipments of 9.7 million during the quarter—a standout performance. Rounding out the Top-5 PC OEM rankings were Lenovo and Toshiba Corp., ranked fourth and fifth, with market shares of 7.5 and 4.6 percent, respectively.

Acer goes into overdrive

“The big news from iSuppli's market share data for the third quarter was undoubtedly the performance of Taiwan’s Acer Inc.,” Wilkins said. “On a sequential basis, the company grew its unit shipment market share by 45 percent, and by 79 percent on a year-over-year basis. Acer shipped almost 3 million more notebooks in the third quarter than it did in the preceding quarter, with the majority of those 3 million being the company's netbook products. Clearly, the company's netbook strategy is paying dividends, with Acer now trailing Dell by less than 2 percentage points of market share for all PCs.”

Solid PC performance

iSuppli was encouraged by overall third-quarter PC shipments, which exceeded our prior expectations of 12 percent year-over-year growth for the third quarter. Desktop PC shipment levels declined by 1.3 percent compared to the same period in 2007, while notebook shipments were up almost 40 percent. Looking outside of the Top-5 OEMs, Apple lost almost half a point of market share on a sequential basis at 3.2 percent, placing it seventh overall in total PC shipments. ASUSTeK Computer Inc. reported a great performance with its notebook shipments, surpassing Lenovo to become the fifth-largest notebook PC OEM while retaining its position overall as the sixth-ranked PC OEM in terms of total PC shipments.

2008 outlook

In view of the better-than-expected third-quarter PC shipments, iSuppli has slightly increased its full year 2008 unit growth forecast from 12.5 percent to 13.0 percent. Our revised 2009 outlook calls for PC unit growth of 4.3 percent.

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