Acer in particular has shown impressive gains of late, with quarter-to-quarter mobile PC shipments in the fourth quarter of last year rising 45.6% to 3.4 million units, iSuppli said in releasing its report on the global laptop market. The Taiwanese company handily outpaced mobile market leader Hewlett-Packard, which posted the second-highest growth rate for the quarter at 32.8%. HP shipped 5 million units in the quarter.
Acer's strong performance also reflects the rise of the Asia/Pacific-based manufacturers, which in the long term pose a threat to HP and Dell, iSuppli said. Acer and Chinese company Lenovo accounted for combined desktop and notebook shipments in 2006 of 29.8 million units, or 12.5% of the market, up from 10.8%, or 23.6 million units, in 2005.
"Looking at the Top-5 PC OEMs, they are definitely separated into the major and minor leagues, with Hewlett-Packard and Dell alone in the majors," iSuppli analyst Matthew Wilkins said in a statement. "However, today's minor leaguers could be tomorrow's major leaguers. Thus, current market-share developments for the Asia/Pacific mobile-PC OEMs could give us a glimpse into the future of top-tier competition in the market."
Through 2011, mobile PCs are expected to post a compound annual growth rate of more than 16%, compared with less than 4% for desktops, according to analyst firm IDC. If that pans out, mobile PCs would account for more than half of all client PCs worldwide in 2011.
Dell posted the weakest performance of the top-five mobile PC makers in the fourth quarters, as its shipments fell 1.5% to 3.52 million units, iSuppli said. Analysts said the company's troubles primarily stemmed from competition with HP, and a generally tougher battle with other manufacturers in the global market.
On the strength of its fourth quarter sales, Acer's share of the global mobile PC market rose three points to 14.3%, toppling Toshiba from the No. 3 spot. Toshiba fell to fourth place.
"Acer came, Acer saw and Acer conquered in the fourth quarter," Wilkins said. "The company has been very public about its intention to capture the No. 3 spot in the mobile-PC market -- and the fourth quarter ranking shows the company is putting its money where its mouth is."
Acer's success was due to lower prices, which resulted in "very impressive" sales gains, particularly in Europe, iSuppli said. In contrast, mobile-PC shipments for Japan-based Toshiba fell in the fourth quarter 1.1% to 2.45 million units, compared with 2.48 million in the previous quarter.
Meanwhile, Lenovo remained in the No. 5 sales slot. The company posted a 9.1% quarter-to-quarter increase to 1.9 million units. The company this month told the Reuters news agency it's planning to launch a new consumer business unit to boost PC sales in general outside its home market.
Overall mobile-PC shipments rose to 23.6 million units in the fourth quarter, up from 20.4 million in the third, iSuppli said. For the full year, global shipments increased 28.4% to 79.6 million units from 61.96 million in 2005.
ISuppli predicted that worldwide mobile-PC shipments this year will rise 23.5% to 98.3 million units.