Tablets bite into netbook sales in Q3, analysts say

Tablets could drive down laptop sales by up to 8 percent in 2011, IDC says

The growing demand for tablet computers continued to eat into the sales of netbooks and laptops during the third quarter, analysts said on Wednesday.

The impact of tablets was most severe on netbooks, whose proportion of overall mobile computer shipments diminished, said David Daoud, research director at IDC.

"If media tablets are meant for media consumption, the PC as a productivity tool is fairly safe. It's the second tool, the netbook, that is unsafe," Daoud said.

The onslaught was led by Apple's iPad, but media tablets from companies like Samsung and Toshiba are due to come soon, which could increase the reach of tablets further. In the meantime, netbooks' share of overall laptop shipments is expected to decline as much as 8 percent in 2011, Daoud said.

Even netbook leaders like Acer and Asus are increasing their focus on tablets in response to the threat from Apple, Daoud said. But there will be continued demand for netbooks as a low-power and low-cost computing tool.

The hype around the iPad affected consumer laptop growth by delaying PC purchases, analysts said. Consumers are waiting for new tablets to be released before deciding what sort of laptop to buy.

"Media tablets don't replace primary PCs but they affect PC purchases in many ways," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, in a statement.

The analysts' comments come just a day after Intel CEO Paul Otellini said the netbook market had matured and that tablets are now biting into PC sales by a few million units per quarter.

In a survey Wednesday, IDC said overall PC shipments in the third quarter totaled 89.3 million units, up by 10.5 percent, or about 3 percent below the analyst firm's expectations. IDC did not count tablet shipments in the survey.

The slower-than-expected growth was a result of tepid consumer spending, especially in the U.S., where PC shipments grew only 3.8 percent year over year, well below the original 11.7 percent growth projection.

Dell and Intel have said PC shipments slowed during the third quarter because of a decrease in discretionary spending by consumers. But shipments received a boost as corporations continued to refresh PCs, IDC said.

A pickup in PC demand toward the end of the quarter could be a precursor to a healthy holiday period, IDC said.

Hewlett-Packard retained its spot as the top PC maker, but shipments fell by 0.1 percent compared to the third quarter last year. The company shipped 15.8 million PCs, retaining a 17.7 percent market share. Shipments for Acer, which was in second place, and Dell, in third place, grew by 7 percent and 9.7 percent, respectively.

Acer shipped 11.6 million units, a 13.0 percent market share, while Dell's PC shipments totaled 11.1 million units, a 12.5 percent market share. PC shipments for fourth-place Lenovo grew by a massive 32.9 percent to achieve 10.3 percent market share. Asus took fifth place, with the company's PC shipments growing by 30.5 percent.

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