Smartphones outsold PCs and tablets combined, says research company – but netbooks have had their day as sales fall by 25% year-on-year
|An HP netbook model in the computer market in Taipei, 2009. An endangered species? Photograph: Dan Chung|
Stick a fork in it: the netbook is done, with sales falling by 25% in the past year while smartphones and tablets are invading the computing space, according to new figures from the research company Canalys.
In 2011, tablets overtook netbooks in total sales while smartphone shipments exceeded those of tablets and PCs combined, at 487.7m against 414.6m.
Netbook shipments in particular fell from 39.4m in 2010 to 29.4m in 2011, a 25% fall, as the total number of tablets shipped rose almost threefold from 23m to 63m by Canalys's calculations.
Excluding tablets, the PC market barely grew overall, with 351.4m, or just 2% more, machines shipped. Even as shipments of notebooks, the largest segment, grew by 8% and desktops, the next biggest, by 2%, the drop in netbooks took the wind out of the business.
It was a different story in September 2009, when Canalys reported that "netbooks reshape the PC industry" after saying that 13.5m had been sold in the first half of 2009 as mobile phone and other companies began selling them. Sales grew substantially in the second half of that year to 33.3m in 2009, according to another research company, DisplaySearch.
Netbooks' brief lifespan, which began in late 2007 and peaked in 2010 with the 39.4m figure - about 11% of the total PC market that year - included a brief period early on when it looked as though they would mark the advent of desktop Linux. But Microsoft instead began offering Windows XP and then Windows 7, heading off the threat to its business.
By contrast shipments of media tablets such as the iPad are already equivalent to 18% of the PC market, and the share is expected to grow with the release in the autumn of Microsoft's Windows 8 for both desktop and tablets.
Smartphone sales have been booming, and grew by 63% in the year, with a slight slowdown in the fourth quarter when the sales of 158.5m were up 56% on the same period in 2010.
The figures for PC shipments excluding tablets agree closely with those from rival research companies Gartner and IDC, which put the total number of PCs shipped excluding tablets in 2011 at 353.5m and 349.6m, compared to Canalys's 351.4m.
Smartphones first outsold PCs (excluding tablets) in the fourth quarter of 2010, according to IDC and Gartner.