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HP is notebook champ in first quarter

As the notebook market continues to eke out more revenue per unit than does the market for desktops, Hewlett-Packard edges out Dell Computer and Toshiba in worldwide shipments.

Hewlett-Packard was king of the hill in notebook PC shipments during the first quarter.

The Palo Alto, Calif., PC giant shipped more notebooks worldwide during the first quarter of 2003 than any other manufacturer, according to a new study from research group IDC.

HP shipped 1.37 million notebooks under its HP and Compaq brands during the quarter, up from 1.29 million in the fourth quarter of 2002, IDC said.

Being No. 1 in notebooks is important to HP, as the market continues to grow and eke out more revenue per unit than does the market for desktop PCs. Manufacturers still sell many more desktops, but they are often fighting to gain sales in a shrinking market. Worldwide notebook unit shipments totaled 8.57 million for the quarter. The figure represents a year-over-year gain of nearly 1 million units, but a sequential decline of 1.3 percent from the fourth quarter, according to IDC. In comparison, desktop unit shipments suffered a double-digit sequential decline from the fourth quarter to the first, the firm said, falling 12 percent.

But while HP moved the most notebooks during the quarter, Dell Computer and Toshiba were not far behind. Dell and Toshiba, which have each held the top spot in shipments at times during the past year, were each within 150,000 units of HP's total.

Dell shipped the second-highest number of units, 1.24 million, during the quarter. Toshiba followed with 1.23 million units, IDC said.

The notebook rankings could in the future help dictate the winner in the tight race between HP and Dell over which manufacturer ships the larger number of PCs overall during a given quarter. Dell shipped the most PC units overall, including desktops, notebooks and servers priced less than $25,000, during the first quarter. But HP shipped the most PCs during the fourth quarter of 2002.

Yet HP has enjoyed two straight quarters at the top in the notebook segment after edging Dell by about 80,000 units in the fourth quarter of 2002. Dell was the top vendor during the second and third quarters of 2002. Toshiba was at the top during the first quarter of 2002, when IDC counted HP and Compaq shipments separately.

Retail, where HP's Pavilion and Compaq Presario brands proliferate, may have given the company the edge it needed over Dell and Toshiba, IDC said.

"I think HP is doing well," said Alan Promisel, an IDC analyst. "It's hitting aggressive price points in the consumer retail channel right now, which I think is the difference. Having a retail channel presence has been to HP's benefit for (reaching) consumers and small office users."

With its merger with Compaq having now passed its one year anniversary, many larger companies are feeling better about HP's long-term prospects, Promisel said. The situation improves the company's chances of securing large business deals in the future.

While HP, Dell and Toshiba battled for the top spot, there were other close races further down in the rankings.

Fujitsu-Siemens and IBM, the fourth and fifth largest notebook makers during the quarter, were nearly tied for fourth place. Fujitsu-Siemens edged out Big Blue by only a few thousand units, shipping 665,000 notebooks to IBM's 638,000, IDC said.

NEC, which shipped 482,000 units for sixth place, was nearly overtaken by Sony. Sony ranked seventh with 447,000 units.

Meanwhile, Apple Computer ranked ninth, with 298,000 units shipped. Apple was behind eighth-ranked Acer's 428,000 units, but Apple shipped more than twice as many units as tenth-placed Gateway, which mustered only 111,000 units during the quarter.