Sharp puts the brakes on notebooks

Sharp Australia will bow out of the local notebook market until it can offer the full range of mainstream and niche products.

Strong sales of mainstream notebooks in Japan currently take up most of Sharp's stock. As such, the vendor has only been able to offer ultra-thin models in Australia but that market is not yet enough large for the vendor to continue to support the product.

"Sharp has been pushing into the niche market with the ultra-light TFT models and that market is not really popular in Australia," Sharp Australia assistant managing director, Denis Kerr, said. "We made the decision to let the notebook market settle and mature a bit in terms of the balance of technology."

Kerr said desktop technology had once again moved ahead of the notebook market, which had reached saturation point. It needed to stabilise before Sharp would consider expanding its product range.

"Quite frankly, ultra-thin is too niche, the market is too small," Kerr said. "The numbers are too low to warrant us continuing to put emphasis on the market. We need the full range of mainstream products as well as those niche ones. If you only have niche, you are fighting very hard to find the right levels of distribution or numbers."

While ultra-thin notebooks always attract interest amongst consumers, when it comes the buying crunch most customers will chose a more mainstream product.

The surge in notebook sales in the last 12 months has also led to intense competition.

Kerr said pricing pressures were squeezing the margin, leading to a downward spiral in the channel.

“We are getting back to the bad old days when PC resellers were going out backwards left, right and centre,” he said.

Sharp has not had a mainstream notebook in Australia for the last 12 months. Kerr would not rule out offering systems in the future, but said the company would look at the market and products further down the track. In the meantime, Sharp had been clearing stock through specialist dealers.

"It's a wait and see situation," he said. "We haven't exited the market completely and we are having no problems getting the stock that we do have through the channel.”

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