Some observers of the IT world were taken aback by Hewlett-Packard's most recent quarterly earnings report, which plainly showed that the world's largest supplier of personal computers had slipped in the consumer laptop/notebook department.
People who follow the PC business closely, however, were not surprised. These folks already knew that Apple's iPad and iPad 2, as well as a flock of Google Android-based tablets, had cut deeply into all mobile PC sales during 2010 and early 2011.
The numbers were stark. Along with all the major PC makers, HP's consumer PC sales fell sharply in the quarter compared to a year ago, before Apple's iPad and numerous other tablets hit the marketplace. Analysts have projected worldwide sales of between 30 million and 50 million iPads in 2011, not to mention the other Android- and Windows-based tablets now on the market.
"HP experienced uneven consumer performance across its product categories during the quarter with continued softness in consumer PCs across all geographies," was the soft way CFO Cathy Lesjack positioned the company's consumer PC cliff dive in the quarterly report.
HP's consumer PC sales fell a whopping 23 percent in the quarter compared to one year ago. Overall, the worldwide PC market shrank by 3.2 percent in the first quarter of 2011 compared with 2010, researcher IDC reported. IDC actually had predicted growth of 1.5 percent in the quarter.
Another industry researcher, IHS iSuppli, reported that portable PC sales slumped by more than 11 million units during Q1 2011, attributing it directly to increased interest in tablets. IHS iSuppli expressed surprise at a slight quarter-on-quarter decrease (to 81.3 million units), because PC shipments had reached a quarterly high at the end of 2010 on strong corporate demand.
Acer's PC sales were down 20.4 percent, Dell's were also down. In fact, five of the world's top seven notebook producers are all in the same boat.