Users go mobile as laptops lead in Q4 PC shipments

20 Jan 2006

New figures are showing a strong shift in Irish PC buying patterns with more people increasingly choosing notebooks. Shipments in the last quarter grew by almost 60pc year on year and manufacturers such as Dell are confirming this trend as many computer buyers opt for portables over desktops.

According to preliminary data from IDC, total desktop and notebook growth in October, November and December was 19.2pc or 189,042 units. Although desktops outsold notebooks in real terms with 124,674 units shipped compared with 64,368 units, the notebook category grew year on year by 58.2pc whereas desktops grew by 5.7pc.

Consumer notebook shipments doubled, rising by 106.7pc on the same quarter a year ago. Consumer desktop shipments grew by 16.7pc by comparison. In the business sector, desktops grew by just 1.2pc and notebook sales increased 35.2pc, IDC found.

“There’s definitely a transition from desktops to portables,” commented Greg Tierney, client systems marketing manager with Dell. Factors such as longer battery life, better performance, improved connectivity and a lower cost of supporting the product now mean that laptops aren’t playing second fiddle to desktops in terms of features, Tierney said. “The cost of supporting mobile users used to be higher for businesses,” he added. “Reliability [with notebooks] probably wasn’t as good as it is today.”

In the past, portables had to be replaced more frequently than desktops and they cost more. Prices have dropped significantly, due largely to increased production of LCD displays, which Tierney said have historically been the single most expensive component in manufacturing laptops.

The upsurge in notebook sales has happened in tandem with the spread of wireless connectivity with wide availability of Wi-Fi hotspots as well as the 3G phone network. Dell is agnostic about which will prove more popular, as its laptops come with connectivity options for both. “I don’t see them [Wi-Fi and 3G] as competing technologies; they’re complementary,” says Tierney. “It’s about connecting to the most suitable and fastest network that’s available to you,” he adds. This means being able to connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot when a person is in a hotel or coffee shop but switching to a 3G link to remain connected while on the road in a taxi, for example.

Although Tierney would not reveal exact figures as to the numbers of notebooks Dell ships relative to desktops, he pointed out: “Of the corporate market in Ireland, we have a 42pc share. If IDC is seeing a shift, you can be sure we’re in line with what’s going on in the market.”

Throughout the EMEA region as a whole, a combination of consumer sales and more laptop purchases meant that PC shipments increased 19pc in the final quarter of last year, IDC said. For the first time, PC shipments in the region have overtaken those in the US.

By Gordon Smith