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Laptop Sales Soaring Amid Wider PC Growth: Gartner

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The long-awaited PC refresh cycle is poised to kick in, although consumer spending is still stronger than corporate spending, according to a new report from IT research firm Gartner. The firm is projecting a decent rate of growth for the worldwide PC market in 2010, and a second report shows first-quarter laptop sales are off to a good start.

Gartner projects worldwide PC shipments will reach 376.6 million units in 2010, a 22-percent increase from the 308.3 million units shipped in 2009. Total spending is expected to reach $245.4 billion in 2010, up 12 percent from 2009. The home PC market is projected to grow 29.5 percent this year, while professional PC sales will rise 13.1 percent.

“PC demand in the consumer segment continues to strengthen even though the global economy remains uncertain. Consumers are now viewing PCs as necessities rather than luxury items,” said Ranjit Atwal, principal research analyst at Gartner in a statement. “In the downturn, PCs remained the electronic device of choice on which to spend household income in mature markets, and we do not expect this to change either in 2010 or beyond.”

Atwal said aging PCs along with the adoption of Microsoft Windows 7 will spur on sales in the business space, with larger businesses beginning their replacements in the second half of 2010 and really picking up pace in 2011. Gartner expects Windows 7 migration to last through 2012.

So far, so good for mobile PCs

Gartner has already given a positive report on server sales in the first quarter, and it found that mobile PC sales are also doing well so far this year. Worldwide mobile PC shipments totaled 49.4 million units in the first quarter of 2010, a 43.4 percent increase from the first quarter of 2009. That’s the single highest year-over-year growth percentage in eight years, according to Gartner.

But it’s not entirely a fair comparison, as Q1 2009 was the depths of the recession and sales fell off a cliff. Several vendors, including Intel, AMD, Nvidia and Dell have all noted massive year-over-year gains, but it’s because they are coming off such terrible lows from 2009.

Shipments to the consumer segments continued to be the main growth driver, but there was an uptake in the professional segment. Gartner expects to see higher growth in the professional market toward the end of 2010 and into 2011 as part of a larger refresh cycle.

Mini-notebooks, or netbooks, played a big part in the growth, up 71 percent year-over-year. However, the netbook share slowed in some regions as consumers begin to realize the limitations of netbooks and also due to aggressive price cuts of regular notebooks, according to Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner.

“The average selling price (ASP) of mobile PCs was $732 in the first quarter of 2010, a 15.7 percent decline from the first quarter of 2009, when the ASP was $868,” Kitagawa said in a statement. “The ASP for mobile PCs is expected to stabilize as sales into the professional market will grow, resulting in slightly higher ASPs compared to consumer mobile PCs.”

Netbook outlook hazy

Netbook sales were what helped Asus and Acer show the strongest growth rate, with the two rising 113 percent and 48.4 percent, respectively. HP and Dell were below the industry average, up 23.2 percent and 33.1 percent, respectively. HP remained the top vendor, with 9.4 million units sold, while Acer was hot on its heels with 9.1 million sold.

However, the growth rate for netbooks will continue but is expected to slow in some markets as the product category matures, Gartner also said. This year, the market is still projected to grow 30 percent over 2009 sales and will account for 18.6 percent of mobile PC shipments in 2010, but their share of the total mobile PC market will steadily decline after this year, falling to 13.9 percent by 2014.

The reason for netbooks’ slide is that Gartner expects pressure on the product category from ultra-low voltage (ULV) notebooks, which offer a full Intel or AMD processor and long battery life in a very thin form factor, rather than using the less-capable Atom processor typical of netbooks today.

Andy Patrizio is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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