Toshiba takes top spot

Fourth quarter Middle East preliminary PC shipment figures have started coming out and it looks like Toshiba has finally grabbed top spot in the lucrative and fast-growing notebook segment. That’s no mean feat for a vendor that offers a limited IT product portfolio in the region and is up against industry heavyweights such as HP, Acer and Dell.

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By  Stuart Wilson Published  January 31, 2006

Fourth quarter Middle East preliminary PC shipment figures have started coming out and it looks like Toshiba has finally grabbed top spot in the lucrative and fast-growing notebook segment. That’s no mean feat for a vendor that offers a limited IT product portfolio in the region and is up against industry heavyweights such as HP, Acer and Dell.

Let’s not forget though that it is only the preliminary results and represents the findings of just one research house. However, the notebook shipment figures I have seen show Toshiba just 309 units ahead of the second placed vendor for the region covering Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and rest of Middle East in the fourth quarter of 2005.

Toshiba topped the table, more than doubling sales year-on-year to 54,121, while second-placed Acer also more than doubled its units shipments, shifting 53,812 units in the fourth quarter. HP picked up third spot, as its unit shipments climbed 65.5% year-on-year to 44,033 units — underperforming the overall segment growth, which hit 81.3%.

Add Turkey to the territories mentioned above and Toshiba’s lead extends to just under 8,000 units over the second-placed vendor. With Turkey included, Toshiba’s shipments for the fourth quarter climb to 89,307 with HP grabbing second spot on 81,332 units and Acer picking up third on 65,449. Toshiba has witnessed considerable success with a large education tender in Turkey.

Anyway, these are still preliminary numbers so let’s not get too excited just yet. I merely wanted to highlight the current rankings so that any changes between the preliminary and final figures can be flagged up and questions can be asked on why the data altered (if this does happen).

During the course of 2005 we got used to a few significant changes between the publication of preliminary and final market research figures for the Middle East and Africa markets. We also had a fantastic quarter where one research house was citing quarterly figures for one vendor in one country 20,000 lower than all other research houses. Will this sort of situation occur again in 2006? I hope not, because it cheapened the value of the data that was being made available.

We were getting situations where vendors were adding a few thousand units to their figures or shifting their ‘sell in’ from one country to another just to ensure that they retained their ranking in a key market. In some cases, this was happening only after they had been sent the preliminary figures.

Now I’m not one to point the finger but this sort of discrepancy does make you wonder if the fancy supply chain management and ERP systems that major vendors have invested so much in are really as whizzy as people say. I thought they gave instant data to sales executives, allowing the vendor to track every single unit and benefit from real-time awareness of inventory and order tracking. Maybe I was wrong.

You see, when the market researcher phones up and asks these vendors what their sales were for the fourth quarter, I always assumed the busy executive merely pressed a button on his laptop to find the figure and passed it on. Job done, or so I thought.

Turns out that’s just the start of the process. A few weeks later the market research firm sends out the preliminary results to the vendors involved and is immediately inundated with calls from angry executives demanding to know why their market ranking has slipped. You can almost imagine the conversation:

ANGRY VENDOR: What do you mean, we’re now number four in the region? We can’t be number four — we were number two last year. The figures you are using are completely wrong. Where did you get them?

MARKET RESEARCHER: You gave them to me two weeks ago.

ANGRY VENDOR: Umm. Yes, well…that’s interesting. You see…hmm…well we’ve implemented some new SCM and PRM modules recently that were being integrated alongside the core ERP system and new financing initiatives for distributors. So, the figures I gave you may have been a little off. Yes, a little off — that’s right. We’d hate for you to give the wrong figures to the market.

MARKET RESEARCHER: So what are the right figures then?

ANGRY VENDOR: Let me see. Yes, you need to add an extra 7,000 units in the UAE, shift 4,000 from Lebanon to Saudi Arabia, turn 10% of those desktops in Egypt into notebook sales and I think we’re there. By my calculation that puts us back in the same position as last year. Excellent stuff. Goodbye.

It’s a fictional conversation, just in case you are wondering. However, joking aside, the quest for market transparency in the Middle East and Africa has to begin with the vendors themselves. If they can’t do it, then there’s not much chance that distributors and resellers will follow suit.

As always, we’re going to dig into the fourth quarter data to flag up the discrepancies between the research houses (and also between preliminary and final figures). Suffice it to say, no data is perfect. For notebook shipments in the Middle East, there are myriad other factors at work such as average selling prices, channel inventory, margins and customer breadth that need to be considered to gauge an individual vendor’s position.

If Toshiba’s top spot is confirmed, then it’s congratulations to Ahmed Khalil and the team. However, you can bet your bottom dollar that the rival vendors will step up their efforts to reclaim Toshiba’s notebook throne in the next few quarters.

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