Saturday, January 05, 2008

2008: Laptops win Desktops

2008 could be the year laptop sales eclipse desktops in US
By Joel Hruska

If 2007 had a title, it might well be "Year of the Laptop." The US notebook market boomed in 2007, with laptop shipments rising 21 percent to a total of 31.6 million units. Desktops still outsold laptops in 2007, but the gap between the two has shrunk as desktop sales continue to decline. With US tower sales down four percent last year at a total of 35 million units, industry analysts predict that notebooks sales will exceed desktop sales for the first time in 2008. By 2011, IDC expects laptops to represent 66 percent of corporate purchases, with 71 percent of consumers opting for a notebook instead of a tower. Part of this demand is also fueled by the education market—an increasingly large number of educational institutions are forcing students to buy laptops (whether they want them or not).

The Los Angeles Times links the laptop market's growth to the expansion of wireless connectivity across the US. The number of hotspots available in any given city has increased tremendously in the past five years. The fee for using such services is virtually nil. If the service isn't provided for free in the first place, it's yours to use with purchase of a latte (unless that latte is from Starbucks, then you need to cough up a lot more money). Users that need an even greater level of on-the-road coverage can typically pick it up from a cellular company, though the speed and quality of such service is still highly dependent on where, exactly, the laptop is located.

Falling prices and technological improvements are the other two factors driving laptop sales. At the high end, the gap between laptop and desktop performance has continued to shrink, while the low end of the market has benefited from cheaper component costs. 2007 saw the launch of a number of $999 laptop models. Past evidence suggests that a sub-$1000 price is a major boost for system sales—the PC desktop market saw its own jump around 1997-1998 when available towers fell below the $1K mark.

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