Toshiba Topples Dell in Global Notebook Battle

The notebook war is heating up as mobile computers continue to steal market share from desktop machines. And in the latest chapter of the ongoing battle for notebook supremacy, Toshiba has toppled Dell in the worldwide market.

Toshiba’s global market notebook sales rose 19.3 percent in the first quarter of the year, according to research firm IDC. Dell’s notebook sales declined 4 percent during the same period.

Notebook computer sales have doubled since 1998, from 3.6 million to 7.2 million, according to IDC. They now represent 23.8 percent of total computer sales, and IDC has predicted that percentage will increase as corporate spending rebounds.

That shift will occur because notebook performance is up, prices are down, and the desktop market is saturated, IDC analyst David Daoud told the E-Commerce Times. Toshiba is cashing in on increasing demand, he added.

Toshiba Shifts Gears

“Toshiba quit the desktop market to focus solely on the mobile space,” Daoud said. “Dell is pretty much all over the map.”

Toshiba’s new emphasis has made a difference in terms of market leadership, according to Rod Keller, executive vice president of Toshiba Computer Systems Group.

“We are educating end users in all segments about the benefits of mobility versus desktop and living in a wired world,” Keller told the E-Commerce Times.

Japanese Market

IDC pointed to the Japanese market as a deciding factor for Toshiba in this round of the notebook battle. Toshibas sales in Japan jumped 64 percent compared with last quarter.

Dell neglected this booming foreign market — the company has no retail presence in Japan — and its numbers in Japan reflected that lack of attention. Ninth-place Dell controls just 2.4 percent of the Japanese market. Dell could not immediately be reached for comment.

Sony, another Dell competitor in the mobile computing space, saw gains of 24 percent in Japan during the first quarter.

Dell Tops U.S. Market

Overall notebook sales in the United States fell 10 percent during the first quarter. But Dell still reigns supreme in the States, with Toshiba in the second-place spot. Dell also controls 25.2 percent of the U.S. market, a safe lead over Toshiba’s 13.6 percent.

Compaq comes in a close third with 11.7 percent, while Sony and IBM round out the top five. But despite its domianance, Dell lost 4.4 percent of the U.S. market last quarter, according to IDC, as Toshiba gained 1.8 percent and Sony gained 5.1 percent.

While Toshiba and Dell have set their sights on one another, emerging players — namely Hewlett-Packard — also are seeking to make a greater impact in notebook sales.

Looking Forward

When HP acquired Compaq, the combined company became a force to be reckoned with in the mobile computing market. Compaq is already the third-place notebook seller worldwide, with 10.4 percent market share.

But Toshiba is not worried about HP, according to Keller.

“While HP is focusing on trying to integrate management and strategies, we are going to focus on listening to customers and delivering mobile solutions for their mobile needs,” he said. “Our focus is to recapture the number one position in every market.”

Keller said a faster transition from desktop to mobile computing should help the cause.

Meanwhile, IBM saw worldwide unit sales drop 11.8 percent in the first quarter. According to Daoud, Big Blue is still looking for opportunities in the enterprise space, which has not rebounded yet.

It is too soon to tell how this drama will play out. Analysts will pay special attention to third- and fourth-quarter results, when sales in the education and consumer markets spike.

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