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Commentary: HP's rise in notebook sales doesn't tell whole story

Reports that Hewlett-Packard has edged out Toshiba for the No. 2 position in retail sales present a somewhat misleading picture of the notebook market as a whole.

By Charles Smulders, Gartner Analyst

Reports that Hewlett-Packard has edged out longtime notebook stalwart Toshiba for the No. 2 position in retail sales present an incomplete and somewhat misleading picture of the notebook market as a whole--in terms of where Toshiba stands as well as the overall market.

Although Toshiba may

See news story:
Toshiba's notebook sales slide
have slipped to third place in retail sales in July, it is important to remember that retail channels presently account for only about one-quarter of all U.S. notebook sales, which totaled 2.14 million units in the second quarter of this year.

Corporate purchasers remain the driving force in this market. In the corporate segment, Toshiba holds a No. 3 position behind Dell Computer, the acknowledged leader in notebook sales, and IBM.

The breakdown of the entire market--both corporate and retail--in the second quarter shows Toshiba's continuing strengths and HP's comparative weakness. Dell holds a commanding lead with 21.5 percent of sales across all channels. Compaq Computer is second at 16.6 percent. Toshiba has 13.4 percent. IBM holds a 12.1 percent share. And HP is a distant fifth at 5.8 percent.

Retail sales are certainly an important and growing dynamic in the notebook market. As more individuals and small enterprises come into the notebook market and as prices drop, we anticipate that retail will become a more significant channel. Nonetheless, the real strength in this market continues to be in corporate sales.

(For related commentary on whether laptops are worth the associated hassle, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

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