Toshiba has been toppled from the number-one spot among notebook vendors, with IBM taking over thanks to a lucrative education contract.
IBM won a contract to supply 40,000 ThinkPad notebooks to the Victorian Department of Employment, Education and Training. The result was more than 21,300 notebooks shipped during the fourth quarter of 2001, according to the latest figures from market analyst IDC.
"Without doubt, the DEET contract propelled IBM into the number one spot," said IDC analyst Logan Ringland. "It represented a significant proportion of overall shipments, but without the strong base level of sales, IBM would not have achieved the same result."
The notebook market proved a lucrative one for IBM last year. Volumes across the segment increased by 8.3 per cent over 2000, compared to the overall market, which was down 6.9 per cent.
"Most notably, the new ThinkPad R Series has make inroads into segments like small business and education," said IBM mobile computing brand manager David Nicol.
However, Toshiba is expected to return to the number-one position this quarter, particularly in light of bumper January sales. Toshiba shipped more than 11,000 units during the first month of 2002, around 4000 more than expected.
"We were very surprised," said Toshiba product marketing manager Laurie White. "We would normally expect an extra 2000 units if it is a good month. This is the biggest January we have had -- it exceeded our previous record and, more importantly, all the stock was sold all the way through to the customer."
IDC's Ringland expects flat growth or a slight decrease for the first quarter this year -- a period that is typically characterised by slower sales.
"I think Q1 will be quite good. There is a lot of pent-up demand in the market, particularly for Toshiba as the education buying cycle returns," he said.
The channel is optimistic that notebook sales will continue to be buoyant, particularly as new technology -- such as Intel's Mobile Pentium 4 processors to be launched next week -- make it onto the market. Ringland warned, however, that it could be some time before the technology has a favourable impact on sales.
"The processors are a significant advance in mobile computing, but they will take a long time to flow through to mainstream product," he said. "It normally takes between three to six months for new technology like this to find its feet, and it also depends on the price premium involved."