The maker of the tiny Eee PC Netbook has joined the giants of computing.
For the second quarter of 2010, Asus shipped 4.3 million PCs, good enough for 5.3 percent of the worldwide market, according to IDC. The Taiwanese manufacturer's PC shipments grew 84 percent during the quarter, allowing it to pull into a dead-even tie with Toshiba for the very first time: the two are tied, that is, for fifth-most PC sales during the quarter behind usual suspects Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Acer, and Lenovo.
Asus' arrival as a major player in the PC game has been in the making for some time. As CNET noted last fall, Asus was positioning itself as the next Acer, starting as a components maker and turning itself into a household PC name in many parts of the world. Though Asus has a presence in every region, it does most of its business in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa region, followed by Asia.
Asus is still the world's largest provider of motherboards, but started getting attention from consumers when the Netbook craze hit in 2008, and the Eee PC was one of the most inexpensive and stylish ultraportable PCs on the market. Its success in the field inspired the likes of HP, Dell, Acer, and Lenovo to start making their own Netbooks or mini-notebooks.
Asus' rise has "been coming for a little while," said Loren Loverde, head of IDC's Quarterly Worldwide PC Tracker. "It's remarkable, particularly for people who haven't seen the Asus name around. Toshiba is a long-time, venerable PC player. Asus is a relative newcomer. But they have been shipping pretty significant volumes (of PCs), more substantially outside the U.S., but pretty significantly in most markets."
The entire PC market grew 22 percent during the second quarter of 2010, according to IDC. Asus' shipments almost quadrupled the market, rising 80 percent worldwide from the second quarter of 2009 to the second quarter of 2010. Asus' shipments were up more than 50 percent in every region in the world, except for Japan.
There's precedent for Asus' impressive rise: Acer and Lenovo followed similar trajectories to get where they are today, third and fourth in global PC shipments, respectively. But of the two were also able to augment their share of the the PC industry through major acquisitions. Acer rode the huge demand for notebook PCs and then bought its way into brand recognition in the U.S., purchasing Gateway. It did the same in Europe buying Packard Bell. Lenovo acquired IBM's PC business, including the well-regarded ThinkPad brand.
Asus has also parlayed its success with the Eee PC into a wider range of consumer electronics products. Asus has introduced a number of Eee-branded products, including the Eee Monitor, Eee Box, Eee VoIP phone, and soon the Eee Keyboard and even the Eee Reader.
The rest of the field
Asus wasn't the only success story in the second quarter. Lenovo outpaced the market by growing 47 percent during the quarter, through increased notebook shipments, but also desktops that are finding buyers in emerging markets, according to IDC.
Acer, which last fall moved into sole possession of second place in the PC shipments' race, dropped back down to third behind Dell. Dell shipped 10.6 million PCs last quarter, for 13 percent of the PC market. Acer shipped 10.3 million PCs, for 12.6 percent of worldwide shipments.
HP still leads the pack with 18.1 percent of all PCs shipped last quarter.
In U.S. shipments, HP leads with 25.7 percent, followed by Dell with 24 percent, Acer with 11 percent, Apple with 8.8 percent, and Toshiba with 8.5 percent, said IDC.
Though the PC industry has bounced back in a big way from when it bottomed out in early 2009, the great growth of 2010 will start tapering off soon, said IDC's Loverde.
"The biggest reason is the economic recovery cycle we're in right now," he said. The first half of 2009 was so bad that the first half of 2010 looks relatively good, in other words. Since the second half of 2009 was better, the second half of 2010 won't look nearly so impressive.
IDC is forecasting that the third quarter of 2010 will see growth rates slightly falling off to 19.4 percent, and to 12.6 percent in the fourth quarter.