Mobile-PC shipments strong, but growth slowing

Year-over-year growth in shipments of mobile PCs was 30 percent in 2010, but that growth is likely to be 27 percent this year, says a new report from DisplaySearch.

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Mobile PC shipments are up, but growth is slowing.
Mobile PC shipments are up, but growth is slowing. DisplaySearch

Shipments of mobile PCs are expected to grow in 2011, albeit at a slightly slower rate than last year, according to a report from DisplaySearch released today.

Shipments of mobile PCs--which include tablets, "mini-notes," and notebook PCs--grew by 30 percent in 2010, according to the research firm. This year, the company expects worldwide shipments to reach 277.7 million units, representing a 27 percent gain year over year.

That DisplaySearch includes tablets in its mobile-PC forecasts, and thus, its growth tallies, has annoyed some who say that by doing so, Apple, the leader in the tablet space, is being given too much weight in the marketplace. In February, DisplaySearch reported that Apple was the world's top mobile-PC brand, shipping 10.2 million units in the fourth quarter of 2010. It was followed by HP with 9.3 million units shipped. Apple's success was due mainly to its iPad.

However, not everyone sees an issue in DisplaySearch including tablets in its mobile-PC tallies. Canalys, another research firm, agrees that tablets are, in fact, PCs.

"Any argument that a pad is not a PC is simply out of sync," Canalys analyst Daryl Chiam said in January. "With screen sizes of 7 inches or above, ample processing power, and a growing number of applications, pads offer a computing experience comparable to Netbooks. They compete for the same customers and will happily coexist."

DisplaySearch said it believes there might be a slight slowdown in shipments of tablets in the first half of 2011 because of iPad competitors finding it difficult to "create demand for their initial offerings, while facing tough comparisons to the incumbent Apple." However, the second half of the year will see tablet shipments gain quickly, the research firm said, ultimately hitting a total of 52.4 million units shipped in 2011.

The declining growth of the wider mobile-PC business is mainly because of slowing shipments of Netbooks (or "mini-notes"), which are expected to drop by 20 percent year over year to 25.4 million units in 2011, DisplaySearch said. The research firm said it also believes that demand in emerging markets won't be as torrid as it has been in the past.

"Two of the main drivers for mobile PC shipment growth over the last few years are expected to sputter in 2011: mini-notes and emerging markets," Richard Shim, mobile computing analyst for DisplaySearch, said in a statement. "Only one of these segments is expected to bounce back. The mini-note market is falling rapidly as brands are looking to exit the mini-note segment and invest in the latest high-growth segment, tablet PCs."

By 2014, DisplaySearch expects more than 500 million mobile PCs to ship annually worldwide.