Netbooks a Bright Spot in Down PC Market: iSuppli

The overall worldwide PC market saw an 8.1 percent drop in shipments in the first quarter, dragged down in large part by poor desktop sales, according to research firm iSuppli. The key bright spot was netbooks, which saw shipments jump 10 percent, according to iSuppli's report. HP continued to be the world's top PC vendor, followed by Dell, Acer, Lenovo and Toshiba.

The worldwide PC market, hammered by the global recession, saw shipments drop by 8.1 percent in the first quarter, with netbooks being one of the few shining lights, according to research firm iSuppli.

Overall, shipments of PCs fell from 72.3 million units in the first quarter of 2008 to 66.5 million shipments in the first three months of this year, iSuppli said in a report released June 19.

Desktops showed weaker-than-expected numbers, with unit shipments dropping 23 percent. Comparatively, netbook shipments grew 10 percent compared to the same period in 2008, the research firm said.

"The worldwide recession sparked by the credit crisis slammed PC shipments for the second quarter in succession during the first three months of 2009," iSuppli analyst Matthew Wilkins said in his report. "The first-quarter performance of the worldwide PC market was worse than iSuppli had expected in its prior forecast, which called for a 4 percent decline in shipments compared to the same period in 2008. After a long period of immunity to the global downturn, the economic crisis finally has begun to impact the PC market."

The numbers from iSuppli were in line with what analyst firms Gartner and IDC compiled for the first quarter. Both firms released their numbers in April, with Gartner seeing a 6.5 percent drop and IDC a 7.1 percent decline.

Both Gartner and IDC also reported on the growing appeal of low-end mini-notebooks, which are putting pressure on low-cost laptops.

iSuppli saw strong netbook sales, particularly through network operator retail stores. The top five PC OEMs also said the retail outlets were helping drive demand for netbooks.

"The bundling of a low-cost portable computer and an Internet access package clearly has struck a chord with consumers," Wilkins said. "The reduced upfront pricing of such packages provided by monthly contract plans also has been a strong factor propelling their success."

He predicted that netbooks will account for 14 percent of worldwide laptop shipments in 2009, up from 9 percent in 2008.

In a report June 2, Gartner also said that indirect sales will increasingly account for larger percentages of PC sales over the next four years. Indirect sales accounted for 66.6 percent of all PC unit shipments in 2004, and 74.3 percent in 2008. That could grow to 80 percent by 2012, the research firm said.

"The direct sales channel is still showing customer preference in certain segments such as enterprise, government and education and some professional segments in mature markets," Gartner analyst Tiffani Bova said in her report. "However, strong consumer and small office/home office (SOHO) market growth will lead to consistent growth for the retail channel, and we can expect to see growth from a variety of nontraditional PC retailers such as Wal-Mart and Price Club in the U.S. and Carrefour and Courts in Asia/Pacific."

In iSuppli's first-quarter numbers, Hewlett-Packard remained the world's top PC vendor, with a 19.7 percent market share. HP was followed by Dell at 13.2 percent, Acer at 11.1 percent, Lenovo at 6.7 percent and Toshiba, at 5.2 percent.

Wilkins said Dell's weak desktop numbers hurt its overall performance in the first quarter.