In the first sign that Apple's claimed 'Year of the Laptop' is here already, US retailers in May made more money selling notebook computers than they did selling desktops, according to sales results from The NPD Group's point-of-sale tracking service. It's the first time that notebooks have outsold desktops in the US. In addition, NPD said unit sales of flat-screen LCD monitors surpassed the sales of older-style tube-based CRTs for the first time.

NPD said those milestones occurred as US retailers selling computer products posted their best year-over-year sales in nearly four years, jumping 13.6 per cent over May 2002.

"It is fitting that these milestones should occur together, as they are both important components in the increased movement of the PC out of the home office and into everyday use," said Stephen Baker, director of industry analysis at NPD. He said the key to the increase in sales was consumers' desire for computing products that offer portability and attractive designs at good prices.

"Selling prices fell below US$1,300 for the first time ever, more than $250 below May 2002, even while 80 per cent of notebooks sported 15-inch screens and 86 per cent provided customers with a CD burner," Baker said.

According to NPD, notebook computer sales volumes have been closing the sales gap with desktop models during the past four years.

In January 2000, NPD said, notebooks represented less than 25 per cent of sales volume. By May of this year, notebooks represented 54 per cent of the nearly $500 million in retail computer sales a month.

RIP CRT LCD sales volumes have been steadily rising since flat-panel screens became affordable for many consumers approximately two years ago, NPD said.

Flat-panel monitors, which are more expensive than CRT monitors, accounted for 52 per cent of unit sales in May and more than 70 per cent of sales dollars, according to NPD. Those numbers are in stark contrast to figures in May 2002, when unit volumes were only 22 per cent of total monitor sales and revenue for LCDs was only 40 per cent of the total.

"LCDs' slim profile and sleek looks are more appealing and more 'home-electronics' looking than the bulky CRTs traditionally sold with PCs," Baker said.

He said consumers were willing to spend more money to buy LCDs. Baker said the average LCD price was $467, compared with the average CRT price of $250.