Shipments of laptops rose by 43.4 percent in the first three months of 2010, compared to the same period last year, according to market research company Gartner. A large part of the growth was due to a 71 percent bump in netbook sales, which Gartner doesn't expect will be affected by the arrival of Apple's iPad and other tablets.
The year-over-year growth was the highest the laptop market has seen in the last eight years, Gartner said, and buyers spent about US$36 billion.
A total of 49.4 million PCs were shipped worldwide in the first quarter of 2010. About 20 percent of those were netbooks, which made up about 13 percent of PC sales in the first quarter of 2009, according to Ranjit Atwal, principal analyst at Gartner.
Gartner does not include sales of tablet devices like the iPad in its laptop sales figures, as they are not a replacement for traditional laptops and netbooks. Netbooks still have a number of differentiators compared to tablets, including price, according to Atwal. However, as the price of tablets drop that will change, he said. The top downloaded applications for tablets will say a lot about how these devices could displace some laptop sales in the future, Gartner said.
Still, the netbook sales growth has slowed in some regions, thanks to aggressive price cuts of regular notebooks and consumers beginning to understand the limitations of the form factor, according to Gartner.
The increasing sales of netbooks also helped lower the average sales price, which dropped from $868 to $732. But as enterprises start buying more that sum is expected to stabilize, Gartner said.
Hewlett-Packard may still ships the largest number of laptops, but its competitors grew faster during the first quarter, according to Gartner.
HP's sales grew by about 23.2 percent, compared to 48.4 percent and 33.1 percent, respectively, for Acer and Dell in second and third place.
Asus recorded the biggest improvement, as it saw sales rose by 113 percent. But the company still ended up if fifth place, eclipsed by Toshiba.