Netbooks Fade Away

Open GraveNetbooks are dying off, even as PC sales show signs of a comeback.

In the first quarter, HP retook the lead in the worldwide client PC market from Apple, which had grabbed it in the Christmas quarter with stunning iPad sales. Tablet sales continue to surge, up 200 percent year-over-year in Q1. Notebook and desktop PC shipments rose, too — 11 percent and 8 percent respectively.

This all comes from a study by consulting firm Canalys.

The netbook category isn’t so healthy, though. Shipments were down 34 percent year-over-year, and that’s the sixth quarterly drop in a row.

According to Canalys Research Analyst Tom Evans:

Most of the leading PC vendors have done a reasonable job of offsetting the declines in their netbook shipments over the past year with increased pad business. Samsung and Lenovo are two that stand out in terms of substantially increasing overall volume, though Asus has performed well too. The challenge is breaking out into the really big volumes to challenge the leaders – Apple and Amazon. So far, only Samsung has shown it can routinely ship more than a million pads a quarter.

In the U.S., tablet sales are approaching 40 percent of all client PC shipments, and it’s clear they’re filling the niche that was supposed to be filled by netbooks. It seems that users who demand ultra-portable Internet access are willing to sacrifice physical keyboards for devices that are even more light-weight.