Notebooks outsell desktops (at home)

Slim Jims

For the first time ever, notebooks have seized a bigger piece of the retail market than desktop PCs, and flat screen monitors are outselling tube-based models.

May sales figures released by New York-based NPD Group are indicative of an important upsurge in mobile computing, as consumers eschew computer systems that are anchored to the desktop.

Lightweight LCD monitors, which use liquid crystal displays instead of the cathode ray tube technology that makes standard monitors so bulky, have become increasingly affordable over the last two years. For the first time, LCDs accounted for 52 percent of US unit sales in May 2003. That marks a strong surge over the same month last year, when LCDs accounted for just 22 percent of sales.

It's interesting that US consumers have proven willing to pay a premium for slim-line looks: LCDs have an average selling price of USD467, more than USD250 above the price of an old-style monitor.

Stephen Baker, director of industry analysis for the NPD Group, said that US retailers are still selling more desktop units than notebook units -- notebooks took just 40 percent of unit sales in May. But on a dollar value basis, notebooks are firmly in the number one spot, accounting for 54 percent of the nearly USD500 million in retail computer sales during the month.

Baker put the boom down to consumers' hunger for mobility, as well as aggressive pricing and the powerful notebook packages on offer. "Selling prices fell below USD1300 for the first time ever, more than USD250 below May 2002, even while 80 percent of notebooks sported 15 inch screens and 86 percent provided customers with a CD burner," Baker said.

In welcome news for the struggling computer industry, May retail computer product sales posted their best year-over-year sales increase in almost four years, jumping 13.6 percent compared to May 2002. Baker said the jump in retail sales was indicative of a trend that's moving the PC out of the home office and into everyday use. Consumers want good-looking, portable devices, and in addition to notebooks and slimline monitors are increasingly willing to invest in devices like photo printers and wireless networking equipment.


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