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Notebooks represented three out of four computers shipped to the U.S. consumer market during the second quarter of 2009. The preliminary figures from IDC's worldwide quarterly PC tracker indicate that the consumer appetite for mobile computers remains unchallenged despite the economic malaise affecting general demand in the U.S. market.

Of the four major PC markets assessed in the preliminary results – consumer portables, consumer desktops, commercial portables and commercial desktops – only consumer portables managed positive growth while the others had moderate to severe contraction. What is even more indicative of unabated consumer attraction to mobile computing is that the consumer notebook growth is estimated at a solid 63% year-on-year. While the commercial desktop and notebook shipments fell by 25% as a result of substantially reduced IT budgets, and the consumer desktop market was down by 9%, the consumer notebook market expanded to a new record of more than 6.3 million units.

"With this type of performance, vendors will have to focus their attention on consumer segmentation and understanding user behavior so as to design products that meet the needs of specific demographics," says David Daoud, research manager in IDC's personal computing, PC tracker and green IT programs.

The preliminary data shows that the U.S. PC market, which includes desktops and laptops, contracted by just 1.4% compared to an earlier projection of -3.1%, and this result can be attributed entirely to the consumer notebook market.

Although the performance of the consumer laptop market defies the economic realities facing the average consumer, several factors are conspiring to keep that market in positive territory.

·  First is the fact that notebooks are must-have products that combine entertainment, communications, and productivity features required by consumers. As such, even with economic stress, consumers will continue to invest in such tools to enhance their entertainment, educational, and professional environments.

·  The second factor stimulating demand is pricing. Notebook prices continue to fall with high-performance units available at bargain prices, often below $600. An environment of eroding prices has been made possible by continued improvements in manufacturing capabilities, a reduction in component prices, and tight competition among vendors.

·  The third factor that is helping the consumer notebook market maintain momentum is the emergence of the netbook form-factor. This is a product that is designed for maximum mobility at a fraction of the standard notebook price.

·  Finally, the proliferation of activity in the consumer notebook market has led to the emergence of new channels, in particular the telecom carriers, who are now playing a critical role in the distribution of netbooks to their own customers in an effort to bundle new services or even as an incentive to sign up new customers.

With the desktop market severely cannibalized by laptops and relegated to niche markets, the U.S. mobile ratio, or the share of notebooks in total PC shipments, has reached the 58.9% mark in Q2 2009. Within the consumer market alone, that ratio is now 74.6%, up from 69% in the previous quarter and 62% in the year-ago quarter.


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