Mobile PC Shipments Soar 43%

May 25, 2010 (12:05 PM EDT)

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Global shipments of mobile PCs soared in the first quarter, reaching their highest level in eight years, a market researcher says.

Shipments rose 43.4% in the quarter to 49.4 million units, Gartner reported Tuesday. The year-over-year growth rate represents about $36 billion in sales.

Consumers continued to be the market's main growth driver, but commercial sales are rising. Gartner expects to see much higher growth in the professional market toward the end of the year and into 2011, when companies are expected to be fully engaged in the process of replacing older PCs.

The average selling price of mobile PCs, which are primarily laptops, netbooks, and tablet PCs, fell to $732 in the quarter, a 15.7% decline from the same period a year ago. However, ASPs are expected to eventually stabilize, as the professional market grows and sales of inexpensive mini-notebooks, known as netbooks, slow. While cash-strapped consumers last year made netbooks the hottest PC category, lower prices are expected to attract an increasing number of buyers for regular laptops.

Hewlett-Packard remained the world's largest mobile PC maker, accounting for 19.2% of the market. However, HP, third-place Dell, and fourth-place Toshiba had shipment increases that fell below the industry average, 23.2%, 33.1%, and 34.7%, respectively.

Fifth-place Asus and second-place Acer had the strongest growth rates, with shipment increases of 113% and 48.4%, respectively.

While mobile PC sales remain strong, products from adjacent categories, such as smartphones and media tablets, including the Apple iPad, are challenging key uses for the units, such as e-mail and Web browsing.

Gartner does not see these adjacent devices as direct replacements for laptops and other mobile PCs. However, how consumers and businesses use the new devices in the future "will tell a lot about how these devices could displace some mobile PCs," Gartner said.