iSuppli: notebooks outship desktops for first time

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, in the press release. “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.”

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.

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.

“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.”

iSuppli was encouraged by overall third-quarter PC shipments, which exceeded their 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 nearly half a point of market share on a sequential basis at 3.2 percent, placing it seventh overall in total PC shipments.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple released the new MacBook family on October 14, 2008, two weeks into the calendar fourth quarter. iSuppli measured the 3rd calendar quarter. Naturally, there was a pause as in-the-know customers had been hearing rumors that new Apple MacBooks were imminent.

iSuppli reports that ASUSTeK Computer Inc. surpassed 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.

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. The firm has revised 2009 outlook calls for PC unit growth of 4.3 percent.

Source: iSuppli

MacDailyNews Take: Units shipped sans healthy margins are meaningless. That’s why Dell needs to generate roughly double Apple’s revenue to get about half of Apple’s profit each quarter. That results in more units shipped which is what iSuppli is measuring. Dell. Twice the work. Half the profit.


  1. I’ve been thinking about getting a MSI Wind netbook, very small, light, cheap and will run OSX without too many headaches.

    Last week in a shop looking at various netbooks I made a brilliant faux pas.

    A sales lady was demonstrating an Asus 100, but I was thinking about the MSI, so I turned to her and asked … Do you have Wind? …. …. …. Long pause. I suddenly realised what I had said, but luckily managed to keep a straight face. However only three minutes later when she was still explaining about the Asus, the hilarity of my comment popped back in my head and reduced me to fits of laughter, I had to leave.

    Priceless … MDN magic word “behind”

  2. @ TruthMan

    > At the end of this long journey, Dell is “selling crap for nothing.”

    It’s not ALL Dell’s fault. The reason Dell is “selling crap for nothing” is because, with one exception, everyone else is selling the same crap for the same nothing. That one exception is Apple, the only player in the game who can actively manage both the supply and demand for computers that can (officially) run Mac OS X.

  3. Well;

    IMHO Dell’s a Dead Company still walking. I can’t see an end strategy; they have no compelling offerings, and thus will be eaten alive from the bottom feeders in the market (Asian MFG’s). HP on the other hand, has a strong services leg, a strong printer and ink business. Both of these will be impossible for Dell to break into, because, they do not have and will not acquire the financial resources needed to do it. I don’t see an acquisition in the wind either, as the value of the dollar makes even weak foreign players out of their price range.

    HP on the other hand, has the potential to be a fierce competitor for Apple. They have the savy to build a shell on Linux or Unix to compete with MS and Apple. I think if HP did a really good job they could really dent Apple’s high end market niche. (at least in the consumer end, maybe not publishing and artistic production).

    I think HP could make a great partner for Apple if they could find a way to co-exist. If not, I could see them morphing into a formidable competitor to Apple.

    The interesting part of the article is the netbooks are included with notebook numbers. These need to be split out. IMHO this is a market niche that will have dramatic growth over the next 5 years. All the crying about cramped keyboards is a bunch of BS. When I looked at the original BB I couldn’t envision it being useful, but people adapted, and so they will adapt to the netbook.

    Apple needs to get going in the niche, usually they uncover these and exploit. Surprising they aren’t leading the attack here.

  4. Cheap low cost Netbooks will be the death of many computer makers if they push the Netbooks past the Holidays. On a $500 or less Netbook how much margin is there for profit? Not, much, the manufacture the distributor and the retailer all take big profit hits when selling cheapo netbooks. Retailers rather sell the high end Sony, HP and yes, Apple hardware because their is more profit in it. Customer’s are happier and they get far fewer returns. The Acer Netbooks and the ASUS EEE PC Netbooks and the other cheapo Netbooks run about a 30% to 45% retail return rate at the reseller. (according to several Fry’s Electronics’ Computer Department Managers & and a handful of Best Buy Store Directors I have spoken with). Reasons for the returns range from battery life, to just unusable and everything in between. At Fry’s over half the Netbook returns translated into Macbook Air sells. At Best Buy that conversion rate was much less (at just 2% to 3%) as employees drive sells of the bulk purchased laptop(s) of the month.
    Netbooks are a fad that is already fading as retailers are dropping their inventory levels and blowing out their Customer Satisfaction returns with big discounts. Now that the Holiday shopping season is ending the Netbook will be going the way of the pet rock. The fad was started and kicked off in time to help drive sells through what is looking to be the slowest holiday shopping season ever. The promise of a cheap fully functional (but small) Laptop, the Netbooks’ sole purpose was to spark interest in buying a new Laptop. You go look at the netbook and then look at what a few hundred more dollars will buy you, at which point you either buy the Netbook, you buy nothing, or you buy the cheapest regular notebook the store has. Unless you wanted the Netbook not for it’s cheap price but, for it’s size and weight, then you’re moving up to a Macbook Air or similar high end full keyboard and screen system by Sony or HP.

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