Samsung rode the coattails of the netbook trend to pass not only Sony but Apple in notebook sales early this year, iSuppli found today. Its portable shipments shot up 14.9 percent in the first three months of the year to top 1.9 million, or just enough to pass Apple's 1.8 million MacBooks for seventh place and to clearly overtake Sony. The year-over-year growth easily soared past the industry, as Samsung nearly doubled its shipments from just 985,000 PCs in early 2009.
The Korean company was helped largely by its deals with European cellular carriers. Since many customers could get netbooks at a lower price or for free when mated with a 3G plan, Samsung earned a large number of near-automatic sales. Samsung also extended its US footprint much deeper than it had in the past, again owing to netbooks. About half of its entire shipments worldwide were netbooks, iSuppli said.
Among the top five, the picture was considerably bleaker as many saw either flat or declining sales. HP continued to hold the lead but lost a slight amount of share to hold 18.9 percent of the market. Despite its netbooks, Acer slipped faster and had just 17.5 percent. Dell was virtually unmoved at 11.5 percent, and Toshiba was the only one of the leaders to have a gain, moving up to 9.3 percent. ASUS' Eee PC netbooks couldn't stop it from falling to 8.3 percent.
How the companies might have fared in the spring wasn't discussed by the analysts, but recent looks at results may work against Samsung or others focusing on low-end notebooks. Early research from Morgan Stanley has suggested that the iPad is flattening notebook growth, at least in the US, as buyers opt for Apple's tablet instead. The American company doesn't currently subsidize the iPad for 3G providers but has been helped by fulfilling more than one role, as its slate not only replaces netbooks but e-readers as well.