Notebook Computers Outsell Desktops for the First Time Ever

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Since the first Intel powered IBM PC shipped in 1981 during Ronald Reagan’s Presidency the desktop form factor of computers have been the number one seller.  But in May 2004 laptop computers outsold desktop computers for the first time ever, taking 56% of PC sales at retailers in the U.S.

This bump in sales of laptops that puts them ahead of desktop computer sales was likely due to heavy promotions of low-priced notebooks leading into the Memorial Day weekend, said research firm Current Analysis, which did not release specific sales figures. Best Buy and Circuit City, the nation’s largest electronics retailers, promoted Compaq notebooks for as little as $649 and $699, respectively, giving the market the boost it needed to overtake desktops, Current Analysis analyst Sam Bhavnani said.

Normally desktop computers outsell notebook computers and hold a 60% market share, while notebooks account for the other 40%.  Tablet PCs don’t generate enough sales to even capture 1%.  As the sales promotions end on these cheap laptops, it is expected that desktop sales will once again take the lead.  However, the tide is changing and retail sales analysts are now predicting that during the Thanksgiving and Christmas shopping season for 2004 in the U.S. the sales of notebooks will again overtake desktops.

But then in 2005, notebooks are projected to account for 55 percent of the retail market, according to Current Analysis. “Next year is the turning point,” Bhavnani said. “We’re seeing signs of it now.”   The portability of notebooks has long been an attraction for consumers, and the increasing popularity and lower cost of wireless networking has made them even more popular.

But because portables couldn’t match the price and performance of desktops, many buyers stayed away. Today, however, notebook prices are falling, and their large screens, beefy hard drives, and faster processing speeds has convinced many people looking for a replacement PC or a second computer to turn to portables.

While notebooks capable of replacing desktops tend to be too heavy for frequent business travelers, they’re fine for people who wants to carry projects from the home office to in front of the TV. “That market doesn’t care about weight,” Bhavnani said. “People are fine with the big notebook, as long as it has the large screen.”

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