However, manufacturers still hurting, thanks to lower profit margins

Netbooks have topped the sales charts and taken the industry by storm.  They have shaken up the plans of microprocessor makers like Intel, forcing them to focus on their mobile processors.  They have also catapulted other chipmakers like VIA into serious competitors in the consumer CPU industry. 

While some are embracing the change, many computer makers are fearful of it, as the cheaper notebooks have come with lower profit margins.  A few such as AMD and Apple Corp. have chosen to ignore it almost completely.

After initial reports showed that netbooks and bargain notebooks might be driving global PC sales, new reports from a competitive market research firm indicates this is indeed the case.  Research firm Gartner released the preliminary version of its report on PC sales in the third quarter of 2008.  It appears, according to the new report that worldwide netbooks have helped to save sales in the midst of a global economic crisis.  Worldwide sales soared to 80.6 million units in Q3, up 15 percent from Q3 of last year.

One thing that's clear according to Gartner is that netbooks are leading the increase in sales. Gartner PC analyst Mika Kitagawa says that it is less clear, though, whether sales are being driven by new models or by cannibalized older models that have seen their prices slashed.

The U.S. sales outlook was not so rosy.  It rose just 4.8 percent, less than in previous years.  Mr. Kitagawa believes that even the low prices were not enough to boost consumer confidence in the troubled market.  Worldwide Europe, the Middle East, and Africa saw their shipments grow 5 times the growth seen in America, allowing them to reach 28.8 million units.

ASUS and Acer who both led the way with their netbook designs saw the strongest growth of any PC company.  Acer is now the top netbook vendor, kicking Hewlett-Packard out of the top spot.  Acer was in a solid third in total sales, shipping 10 million units, or roughly 12.5 percent of the world market, up 47 percent from the year before.

ASUS's exact growth was not announced in the preliminary version of the report, but Mr. Kitagawa says it will be in triple digits.  While ASUS has yet to crack the top five in total sales, its getting close.

While HP remains king worldwide, in the U.S. Dell is top dog with 29.5 percent of shipments.  HP is close behind with 25.7 percent.  Apple grew a whopping 30 percent to seize a 9.5 percent share and the third spot in sales.  Acer saw 11.2 percent U.S. growth, above average, and took a 9 percent share of the total market.  Toshiba held steady in fifth with a 5.6 percent market share.

With the rising popularity of netbooks, many are wondering whether people will continue to flock to Apple's pricey laptops, which on average cost about twice the cost of a Vista computer

"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins
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