Report: Desktops In Decline, But Laptops Thrive

There's good news and bad news in the systems market. While PC sales are projected to taper off this year, solution providers will be negatively affected only if they sell primarily desktops.

Increased demand for notebooks will continue to outpace the decline in desktops, according to the most recent forecast from Gartner, which predicts that overall PC sales will grow only 10.7 percent this year compared with 15.7 percent in 2005.

Worldwide unit sales of notebooks will grow 22.1 percent in mature markets and 38.7 percent in emerging regions, Gartner says. "Thanks to pricing and innovation in form factor and battery life, mobile PCs are appealing to a wider range of users," says George Shiffler, a Gartner research director. Indeed, solution providers say the demand for notebooks is clearly stronger than it is for desktops.

"We actually have seen some pretty strong trends in the notebook space in general," says Kris Rogers, executive vice president of Torrance, Calif.-based PC Mall, which carries mostly notebooks from Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Sony. "We're seeing some real demand for dual-core features and notebooks with a longer battery life."

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Several notebook vendors--including Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Sony and Toshiba--have unveiled systems based on Intel's Centrino Core Solo and Duo processor lines. HP, which last month became the latest company to refresh its notebook line, joins Toshiba and Lenovo in touting a longer battery life. But HP has also upped the ante, launching a $200 12-cell lithium-ion battery that the company says will add 10 hours of battery life--for a total of 14--to the new line of business-class notebooks, and to some models introduced last summer.

One of the vendor's new notebooks is the HP Compaq nx9400 Series. With a 17-inch display and a weight of 7.4 pounds, it's 17 percent lighter and 35 percent thinner than the nx9600, the model it replaces. The nx9400 is available with an Intel Centrino Core Duo chip and embedded communications capability for the Verizon Wireless broadband network. Pricing will start at $1,499 when the notebook ships next month.

Of note, the nx9400 is the first HP business notebook to offer a shock-mounted drive. Look for other laptops with that feature down the road, says Carol Hess-Nickels, HP's director of business-notebook marketing. "We will put it on certain products across our line where it makes sense," she says.

Toshiba, too, took the wraps off a bevy of portables based on Intel's new Centrino processors. Three of them are the Tecra A6, Tecra A7 and Portege M400 convertible notebook-tablet machine. For Toshiba, which doesn't manufacture desktops, the shift toward notebooks is especially advantageous.

Still, though, the heartiness of the mobile-systems market won't be enough to compensate for the desktop slowdown in terms of systems shipments, Shiffler says. "We expect to see a fall-off in both the home and professional markets over the next year," he says. "We're at the end of the desktop-replacement cycle."