Toshiba knocked off its perch

Toshiba has blamed “irresponsible” behaviour from HP after it was ousted from top spot in the Australian notebook market. It is the first time HP has topped the notebook charts since 1994.

According to quarterly figures from IDC, based on ‘sell on’ rather than ‘sell through’, HP was credited with a 22.3 per cent share of the market during Q2. Toshiba came second with 21.8 per cent, followed by Dell (13.7 per cent), IBM (12.1 per cent) and Acer (9.2 per cent). Total sales for the quarter reached 161,534.

Toshiba was pipped by IBM in Q4 of 2001 but has held number one spot unchallenged ever since.

IDC analyst, Imraan Ali, said HP had managed to topple Toshiba by being very price aggressive, particularly in the consumer space.

“Price is a major factor in consumer spending and there has been a lot of activity in the market for notebooks priced under $2000,” Ali said. “This has been helped by the strong Aussie dollar.

“HP will definitely continue to be very aggressive in trying to hold on to that [number one] mantle but expect Toshiba to come back strongly. It will be a dogfight between those two for the remainder of the year.”

National marketing manager for Toshiba information systems division, Mark Whittard, suggested several factors had played a part in it being passed by HP during Q2.

“We had a number of deals we pulled into March and the first quarter was very strong,” he said. “We also had a few supply problems in the retail space that hurt us but they have been sorted out now and we have seen those figures coming back in July.”

But he mostly attributed the vendor’s fall from the top of the tree to “irresponsible” behaviour from HP, particularly in the value end of the market.

“At the end of the day, there’s not a lot we can do about HP dumping these products into the market,” Whittard said.

“The biggest problem they [HP] will have now is that this stock is still sitting in the channel and will slow down sales of new models. It will come back and bite them.”

Whittard claimed some HP notebooks were being offered to resellers with no price protection or return options, something he said Toshiba would not do.

“We don’t load dealers up with stock and leave them to get rid of it,” he said. “Our resellers get higher discounts on recommended retail price, and significantly higher soft dollar rebates, when compared with those of our competitors.”

HP Australia marketing development manager for commercial notebooks and tablet PCs, Sylvia Vasas, said HP had been offering its NX9000 and NX9010 notebooks bundled with a Nokia 6610 mobile phone worth more than $500. The entry-level NX9000 was also available bundled with a free iPAQ.

She said these options gave resellers the opportunity to make extra margin but admitted they were offered without price protection or return options.

However, she said HP had experienced a good quarter for notebooks across the board and would continue to be aggressive.

“Commoditised component pricing has enabled vendors to deliver better specifications at lower price points and we have been very competitive,” she said.

“We have been steadily making inroads during the past two or three quarters as part of a long-term goal to re-establish ourselves as the leading notebook vendor and we will be working hard to retain that position.”

HP is promising several new commercial and consumer models in the coming quarter as it attempts to cement its position as number one. Whittard said Toshiba would be using promotions – including memory and external optical drive packages – as well as heavy marketing as it strove to reclaim its position at the top of the pile.

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