Global notebook shipments reached 45.8 million units in the third quarter, an increase of 7.2% over the quarter ending in June and 4.2% over the same period last year, according to TrendForce. Among the top 7 notebook vendors, shipment growth was an exceptional 8.6%. Despite the strong performance of notebooks in the third quarter, TrendForce is concerned that that momentum will be unsustainable and shipments will decrease 3% to 5% in the fourth quarter.
Low pricing played an important role in the growth of notebook shipments in the third quarter, said Caroline Chen, a notebook analyst at TrendForce. “Low pricing helped notebook vendors maintain strong shipment growth in the third quarter despite no new Microsoft operating system or Intel processor being launched,” she said. HP was the top-performing notebook vendor during the third quarter, with its shipments rising 18%. Lenovo also posted outstanding results on the back of heavy discounting. Shipments in September rose 40% over August. Third quarter shipments rose 14% over the April-June period and 20% over the same period a year earlier. Acer also did well in the third quarter, buoyed in part by its restructuring moves. Its shipments rose 14% from July-September and 25% over the third quarter of 2013. Apple also used low prices to boost sales. It offered $100 discounts on its MacBook computers, attracting new mid and high-end consumers and added iPhone users attracted by the compatibility of their smartphones with Apple notebooks. As a result, Apple notebook shipments rose 19% in the third quarter. Overall, its prospects for growth in the notebook market look good.
If notebook prices continue to drop, tremendous pressure will be exerted on the margins of small vendors, which can only rely on low pricing to compete in the marketplace, Chen said. “Big brands are perceived by consumers as being higher quality. They also have better customer service and their brand awareness is higher. When they also add low pricing to that stable of strengths, it forces smaller vendors to either completely change their business models or exit the market,” she said, adding that the 7 major notebook brands together have an 88% market share. Some big companies are leaving the market slowly, like Samsung and Sony. Toshiba, meanwhile, is planning to change its product strategy.