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Sun 30 May 2004 04:00 AM

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Pinpointing notebook growth

There is often a temptation to extrapolate a market trend in order to make bold assertions that sometimes end up a little wide of the mark. This is certainly the case when people refer to rocketing growth in the demand for notebooks in the Middle East.

There is often a temptation to extrapolate a market trend in order to make bold assertions that sometimes end up a little wide of the mark. This is certainly the case when people refer to rocketing growth in the demand for notebooks in the Middle East.

Yes, notebook sales are on the up overall, but this trend is being driven by demand from a few specific countries in the region and is not representative of every single market. The latest Middle East shipment figures for the first quarter from IDC show the regional disparities that still exist on a country-by-country basis.

The UAE and Saudi Arabian IT markets continued to see massive demand for notebooks during the first quarter of 2004 according to the latest IDC PC shipment data. First quarter notebook shipments into Saudi Arabia more than doubled year-on-year to hit 30,593 — accounting for 31% of the units shipped across all form factors. In the first quarter of 2003, notebooks made up just 18% of the market. UAE statistics paint a similar picture with notebook shipments in the first quarter almost trebling year-on-year to 38,150 — 41% of all form factors shipped into the market.

While these two markets lead the pack in notebook uptake, Egyptian notebook shipments slipped 36% year-on-year to just 3,774, accounting for just 8% of the total market. In the rest of the Middle East region, notebooks made up 8% of a total shipment figure up 36% year-on-year at 355,978 for the first quarter. There remain significant differences between the type of form factor dominating national markets in the Middle East as spending power and volatile demand patterns take their toll. During the past year, IDC’s statistics also indicate sluggish demand for servers with a 24% year-on-year fall in units shipped in Saudi Arabia.

Omar Shihab, research analyst PCs and systems at IDC Middle East, comments: “The feedback from major vendors is that notebooks will continue to be the real growth form factor — especially in markets such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia. A couple of major vendors had huge shipments of notebooks in the region during the last quarter. The figures are still fairly volatile because one or two large projects can have a profound impact on the overall figures.”

“Vendors are seeing a good turnover of product in the channel in the Middle East,” continues Shihab. “Levels of inventory in the market remain relatively low and there is not much stock in the channel.”

These figures reinforce the fact that the Middle East remains a set of fragmented, unique and individual national markets with each one displaying a different set of demand characteristics. Vendors need to adopt channel, marketing and product policies that accurately reflect the nature of the market they are selling into. These figures need to be treated with some caution. With the overall unit shipment number in the region across all form factors standing at fewer than 600,000 in the first quarter, small changes in numbers can produce large percentage shifts.

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